We had an item yesterday on a rosy report on Medicare savings from the Department of Health and Human Services. Today James Capretta, one of my favorite health analysts, says that “report” is too nice a word-he prefers propaganda.
Capretta says the oddly timed whatever we call it from DHHS may have been designed to get out ahead of a report from the Medicare Trustees. It will come out later this week and always generates news. Although the trustees are largely administration appointees, the report is written by the chief actuary, Richard Foster, and, because of the enormous importance of this information, he has quite a bit of independence.
Capretta links to several of Foster’s preliminary reports that indicate what we might expect and compares Foster’s projections to those of HHS:
On the surface, the chief actuary’s findings would seem to confirm one of the administration’s main talking points – which is that the new health-care law will postpone depletion of the Medicare hospital insurance (HI) trust fund by a dozen years, to 2029. But a full reading of both memoranda makes it clear that the apparent good news on trust-fund solvency is nothing but a mirage.
The problem is that the administration is trying to count the same Medicare cuts and tax increases twice, once to pay for a massive entitlement program to expand insurance coverage to low- and moderate-income households, and then again to fill the coffers of Medicare so future benefits can be paid.
That sounds fishy to most Americans, and for good reason. Even the federal government hasn’t found a way to spend the same money twice – a point both the chief actuary and CBO confirmed in their separate analyses of Obamacare. As stated by the chief actuary’s office, “In practice, the improved [Medicare hospital insurance] financing cannot be simultaneously used to finance other Federal outlays (such as the coverage expansions under the [the new health-care law]) and to extend the trust fund, despite the appearance of this result from the respective accounting conventions.”
Just want to call your attention to one more important healthcare op-ed today: Betsy McCaughey comments on constitutional issues, including yesterday’s Virginia ruling today in the Wall Street Journal.