Is healthcare reform headed toward a dead end for cost control?

One causality of healthcare reform negotiations might be cost control. 

Jason Reed/Reuters
President Obama is pictured during a bipartisan meeting to discuss health reform legislation at Blair House in Washington, Feb. 25. Negotiations to garner bipartisan support for reform might endanger cost-cutting measures.

OK — we’re a little worried at the Concord Coalition that the harder the politicians work at finding agreement on health care reform, the more likely we’ll end up with a reform that doesn’t actually “bend the health cost curve.” From a “Tabulation” blog post by Concord Executive Director Bob Bixby:

If we learned anything from last week’s health care summit, it is that the final end game negotiations will not take place between Democrats and Republicans but among various factions of Democrats…

One casualty of the situation may be cost containment. Democrats are mostly united around coverage expansion. That’s the easy part. Their biggest difference is on the more difficult question of aggressive cost containment. The two most promising cost-containment strategies still on the table are the tax on high-cost health care plans and the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). Both were adopted by the Senate but not by the House, where they remain deeply unpopular.

If the price for securing 218 votes in the House is eliminating or neutering these provisions, the result will be a bill that expands coverage with very little prospect of controlling costs…

President Obama has already given ground on the high-cost tax. In his latest summary of proposals to bridge the gap between House and Senate Democrats, he proposes that implementation of the tax be delayed until 2018. However, while some phase-in period may be appropriate, the same forces fighting the tax now will not simply melt away over the next eight years. The projected cost savings from this provision are thus looking increasingly speculative.

The assumed cost savings from IPAB may also be in danger. The President proposed this idea last summer as an ongoing method of reviewing Medicare expenditures and proposing ways to keep costs under control. While it has been watered down, the President remains committed to the concept. However, many influential House members view it as an intrusion on their ability to set Medicare payment rates and have opposed it from the outset.

Wait — remind me:  why was it we were pursuing health care reform?

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