Paul Krugman does a beautiful job demolishing Republican arguments on health care reform before they hit the floor:
We are, I believe, witnessing something new in American politics. Last year, looking at claims that we can cut taxes, avoid cuts to any popular program and still balance the budget, I observed that Republicans seemed to have lost interest in the war on terror and shifted focus to the war on arithmetic. But now the G.O.P. has moved on to an even bigger project: the war on logic.
So, about that nonsense: this week the House is expected to pass H.R. 2, the Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act — its actual name. But Republicans have a small problem: they claim to care about budget deficits, yet the Congressional Budget Office says that repealing last year’s health reform would increase the deficit. So what, other than dismissing the nonpartisan budget office’s verdict as “their opinion” — as Mr. Boehner has — can the G.O.P. do?
The answer is contained in an analysis — or maybe that should be “analysis” — released by the speaker’s office, which purports to show that health care reform actually increases the deficit. Why? That’s where the war on logic comes in.
First of all, says the analysis, the true cost of reform includes the cost of the “doc fix.” What’s that?
Well, in 1997 Congress enacted a formula to determine Medicare payments to physicians. The formula was, however, flawed; it would lead to payments so low that doctors would stop accepting Medicare patients. Instead of changing the formula, however, Congress has consistently enacted one-year fixes. And Republicans claim that the estimated cost of future fixes, $208 billion over the next 10 years, should be considered a cost of health care reform.
But the same spending would still be necessary if we were to undo reform.
The doc fix fallacy started with Paul Ryan, near as I can tell, and every conservative and pundit swallowed it whole:
It never made any sense.
This is Ryan from the Healthcare Summit Obama held:
And I think, probably, the most cynical gimmick in this bill is something that we all probably agree on. We don’t think we should cut doctors 21 percent next year. We’ve stopped those cuts from occurring every year for the last seven years. We all call this, here in Washington, the doc fix. Well, the doc fix, according to your numbers, costs $371 billion. It was in the first iteration of all of these bills, but because it was a big price tag and it made the score look bad, made it look like a deficit, that bill was — that provision was taken out, and it’s been going on in stand-alone legislation. But ignoring these costs does not remove them from the backs of taxpayers. Hiding spending does not reduce spending. And so when you take a look at all of this, it just doesn’t add up.
He’s right. Ignoring the doc fix does not “remove them from the backs of taxpayers”. That’s why I expect Ron Paul and Paul Ryan to introduce legislation to freeze reimbursements to physicians, along with repealing the Affordable Care Act.
If they don’t, and they won’t, because Republicans know full well why they took the House in November, and it had nothing to do with their purely mythical prowess at balancing budgets, the doc fix claim goes from theory to practice, from nonsense to dishonest.
Here’s Mr. Fiscal Conservative Paul Ryan again, at the healthcare summit, introducing the GOP political strategy for the midterms:
Now, when you take a look at what this does, is, according to the chief actuary of Medicare, he’s saying as much as 20 percent of Medicare’s providers will either go out of business or will have to stop seeing Medicare beneficiaries. Millions of seniors who are on — who have chosen Medicare Advantage will lose the coverage that they now enjoy.
I’m going to repeat Krugman’s main point, and rephrase it as a question. It’s the first question from this point forward, because, as you know, Republicans took the House:
Would the same spending still be necessary if we undo reform?