Has anyone other than me noticed the juxtaposition of two actions by Congress this week? Action one is debating “healthcare reform” that will be paid for in most part by $500 billion savings in Medicare. The other is passage of a bill that eliminates a $200 billion reduction in Medicare spending. "Hello? Anyone home?"
The Medicare reduction that Congress is in the process of eliminating is part of a bill that was passed years ago in response to public outrage over runaway Medicare costs. Congress said, “Okay, we will mandate reduction in payments to doctors to reduce cost,” but made the reductions a phased-in process over many years. As each reduction has come due, Congress has cancelled it. The outrage over excessive spending has long since been forgotten, but the outcry over “unfairness to doctors” is current. That outcry is, of course, coming from doctors rather than the public, but…
That’s what Congress does. It legislates in response to the public outcry of the moment, but then sets the implementation of that legislation far enough in the future for two things to happen.
The first is that at least one national election will have passed so that if the legislation backfires when it goes into effect the party in power will still have retained the White House and control of Congress for another term.
The more important advantage to delay is that prior to implementation the legislation can be modified in whatever manner is needed to suit special interests, because the original passions of the public at large will have faded. As proof that the practice works, notice that Congress is eliminating $200 billion in Medicare cuts that it passed years ago in response to public pressure, and the public response to that is a big yawn.
In line with usual practice the current “healthcare reform” is being planned for implemention in 2013 by the House and in 2014 by the Senate. The public should be asking “Wtf?” about this, but of course they are not because this is simply business as normal. Barack Obama said something in his campaign about “changing the way things are done in Washington,” but even he is not suggesting a more rapid schedule for implementation of “healthcare reform” because, I suspect, the deal suits his purpose very well. If the implementation turns into a nightmare it will do so after he has assured a second term in office.
Congress will pass a “healthcare reform” bill because Keith Olbermann et al are shrieking hysterically every night on television about the heinous crimes being committed by the health insurance industry, but by 2013 Olbermann will be hyperventilating about something else altogether and the “reform” can be safely altered to a form much more suitable to the special interests that continuously enrich our legislators.
As for paying for “healthcare reform” by saving $500 billion in Medicare, we can be absolutely certain that it will never happen. That process may be in the bill, but between now and implementation of the bill it will almost certainly be legislated out and, failing that, when it comes time for the cuts to actually be made, Congress will cancel them.
Just as it is now cancelling Medicare savings that were passed earlier.