Paul Ryan: Obamacare Will Raise Medical Costs

Thursday, 25 Feb 2010 03:48 PM

By Dave Eberhart

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If the Democrat-backed healthcare bills are signed into law, medical care in the United States is going to skyrocket along with the deficit, says one of the GOP’s leading experts on the subject.

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the ranking member on the House Budget Committee, told Newsmax.TV’s Ashley Martella that both the House and the Senate bills passed by the Democrat-controlled Congress are full of “smoke-and-mirror” regulations that will stymie hospitals and doctors' attempts to enact cost-cutting measures.

Editor's Note: See the entire Newsmax.TV video interview below

He gives several examples:
  • “This year, doctors in Medicare are going to get cut 21 percent in their fees. Everyone is trying to fix that. That’s $371 billion. What did the Democrats do — they took it out of this legislation and are moving it as a separate piece of legislation. So they have hidden $371 billion of spending right there.
  • “Here is a second thing they are doing, which CBO [Congressional Budget Office] has no control over, 10 years of tax increases and Medicare cuts to pay for six years of spending. They can manipulate a score anyway they want to to make it appear as if it's not a deficit, but if you actually take away all the smoke and mirrors, all the gimmicks, the bill from our estimation costs about $460 billion in deficits in the first 10 years and about 1.4 trillion in deficits in the second 10 years.”
  • “If you use real world economics and reality-based scoring, not the spreadsheets they cooked up to manipulate a score, this thing represents a big deficit increase and it makes healthcare costs go up, not down and that is not my opinion, that's the opinion of the chief actuary of Medicare/Medicaid,” he contends.
Ryan, the author of the House bill entitled “Roadmap for America's Future Act of 2008,” which deals head-on with entitlement issues, including Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, is wary of Majority Leader Harry Reid’s potential end run to ram Obamacare through the Senate with the simple majority reconciliation tactic.

But under reconciliation, the original Senate bill would have to pass the House — a feat that Ryan doesn’t believe will happen, he told Martella.

“Once you decide to reconcile, and I’ve been told Democrats have decided to do this, they know they can pass it through the Senate, but I don't know about the House,” he said. “By our best guess, we think they're down anywhere from two to 10 votes in the House. So right now, they don't have the votes to pass this through the House. Remember, it was a razor-thin majority the last time, they lost two Democrats since then and the sole Republican that had voted for it before is now opposed to.”

What’s more, he said, the president's bill funds abortions and that means pro-life Democrats “Art Stupak and nine or 10 others are probably going to vote no against this bill. But you can never count them out. Cap-and-trade – they were down 24 votes the night before. They brought a 400-page amendment, porking the bill up, promising all these things — and they won by eight votes.

“So, you know, the speaker has shown that she's a worthy adversary on these ideas, and she knows how to muscle these things through.”

Ryan declares that right now, Democrats don't have the votes to jam through their government takeover of healthcare because the American people have rebelled.

One of the biggest controversies in the Democrats’ heathcare reform legislation was a half-trillion-dollar cut in Medicare benefits. Ryan has strong opinions on this score.

“What the Democrats are doing is taking a half-trillion dollars out of Medicare from today's seniors, and they’re not using it to shore up Medicare, they are using it as a piggy bank to create a whole new government program — new entitlement program.

“And if you take a look at what they are doing, the sort of indiscriminate cuts to the program, according to the chief actuary in Medicare, will cause one in five providers to either go bankrupt or drop covering Medicare beneficiaries.

“It will cost 64 percent of people on Medicare Advantage to lose their plan,” Ryan said. “What I propose in my 'Roadmap for America's Future' is, look, Medicare is going bankrupt; it’s got $30 trillion of unfunded liability, but if we act now, we can guarantee the program works for today's seniors.

“So, if you're above 55, there are no changes that occur, but below 55, we already know the program is not going to be there for us, so I reform in a way that looks like the kind of system I have as a congressman.

“I get a payment, I get to pick among a whole list of private plans that compete against each other for my business – and that’s how I get my health insurance.

“I’m proposing to do basically the same thing – the same type of plan I have in Congress for younger people under 55, with three basic changes: more assistance for people with lower incomes and with high health costs, and not as much assistance for people who are wealthy.

“If you do this, according to Medicare itself and the Congressional Budget Office, that makes the program permanently solvent, pays off that unfunded liability, and it is a key part of my plan to literally pay off our national debt.”
Ryan says that what he is proposing is the antithesis the Obama government takeover of healthcare.

“What I am proposing is a patient-centered system — a system of a healthcare market in which the individual, the patient, and doctor are the nucleus of the healthcare system, not the government.

“One of the problems we have in healthcare today is that those basic free market elements are missing in healthcare. I want to reintroduce them. What I'm saying is, number one, let’s end the tax discrimination against people in healthcare who don’t get healthcare from their jobs and equalize it so that everybody gets the same tax benefit, it is portable, and it’s attached to them instead of their job.”

Fitting under a general No. 2 are a lot of ideas, he says: “interstate shopping, more transparency in price and quality — to give individuals more power and more resources to have competition — competition among doctors, hospitals, insurers to compete against each other for the individuals business.

“A patient-centered system that involves no new taxes, doesn’t involve all this new spending we’re talking about, but takes the money we already spend on healthcare, which is already two and a half times more per person than any other country, and spends it more efficiently, more effectively by spending through the individual versus coming from the government.

On another subject, the Senate just passed a $15 billion jobs bill that Reid  drastically watered down from its original version. Newsmax asked Ryan whether it will get by the House.

“My guess is yes, they will bill passes the House,” Ryan opined. “I don’t think you’ll see Republican support for this bill — we just don’t think borrowing and spending is the key to prosperity. But the speaker has been doing a very good job at muscling the votes she needs to get the bills passed she wants to pass.

On a subject near and dear to Ryan, Newsmax asked about a ubiquitous political third rail: tax reform.

“What I am saying is, look, if you like this current tax code with all the bells and whistles loopholes and complexity that’s your choice," Ryan said. "But if you want a very simple flat tax system that literally fits on a postcard — 10 percent on the first hundred thousand dollars for families, 25 percent above that; generous family and personal exemptions and that's about it.

The government would get its traditional amount under the plan, which also "gets the IRS out of your affairs to give you a very simple system… A family of four earning $39,000 wouldn’t pay taxes until after that amount under this system.

“Tax reform, entitlement reform, spending cuts are actually going to help our economy — showing the world in the credit markets we are going to get our debt under control, spending under control, and releasing the entrepreneur — releasing the genius of America the risk taker the innovator by not taxing them so much is what’s going to get our economy growing again making us more competitive.

“We won’t be able to pass an agenda like that with the people running Washington right now,” he concludes.

Regarding the midterm elections in November, Ryan said, “I think there is a very realistic chance [for Republicans] to retake the House. I’ve never seen anything like this. I represent a swing district in Wisconsin, and I've never seen a public uprising like this ever before; it's great to see. You know, we have a founding principle in this country which is we want government by consent of the governed.

“You’ve seen this healthcare generally run through when the public clearly is out of favor of it," he said. "I really believe this is not a fleeting moment but a building moment.”



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