How will they reduce the deficit through health care policy?

While perusing my Wonkbook email this morning, I came across this gem:

Sen. Olympia Snowe, the most moderate Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, parted ways with her GOP colleagues over their calls for tighter Medicare eligibility and Medicaid block grants, according to aides.

Snowe was one of two GOP committee members who didn’t sign onto the Finance Committee Republican recommendations to the deficit supercommittee. The other was Jon Kyl of Arizona, and his absence was less notable because he’s a member of the debt panel.

The recommendations — part of a series of letters that congressional committees sent to the deficit-reduction panel — call for repealing the health care law, tightening Medicare eligibility and turning Medicaid into a block grant.

Of course, the article was focused on the politics of the situation. The media seems more concerned about what this means for Senator Snowe and her re-election campaign strategy. Me? I can’t get past what this group wants to suggest to the deficit supercommittee.

Let’s start with the repeal bit. This is, of course, the usual claim of those who oppose the Affordable Care Act. But it’s one of the strangest to me. You can dislike the law, but you can’t blame the deficit on it. It has spending and regulations, but lots of taxes, fees, and cuts as well. Repealing gets rid of those, too. So how does this accomplish the goals of the supercommittee?

But that’s politics. What about the other ideas? Here are some more specifics on them:

Like other bipartisan plans, the Finance Committee’s plan, led by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), seeks to increase the Medicare eligibility age and asks high-income seniors to pay more for their Medicare benefits. The plan also recommends converting state Medicaid funding into block grants, a proposition nursing home providers have long opposed.

Where to begin? We’ve described why raising the age of eligibility for Medicare is a bad idea over and over and over and over again. I even had a column on it. And here’s a podcast.

As for Medicaid block grants? That’s not a good idea either. And don’t talk to me about Rhode Island. The truth of the matter is that Medicaid savings in block grants come from severely cutting spending, not “innovation”. And when you cut spending at those levels, you’re going to decrease access or decrease quality. Deal with it.

I am open to serious discussions on how to reduce spending on health care. Really. But these are talking points, old news, and mostly debunked. I’m hoping some new ideas are coming?

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