Friday, April 22, 2011

Smell the burning greenbacks

Year after year, companies, individuals and the U.S. government, which is in charge of Medicare for seniors and Medicaid for the poor and disabled, have been forced to absorb increases in the costs of health care.

It's no secret that something's got to give when it comes to costs that continually defy gravity.

Yet, a proposal by the Obama administration to expand the power of an independent 15-member board that could make decisions about Medicare spending is provoking an uprising from both parties.

Not only are Republicans and Democrats objecting to the powers of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which was created in the new health-care reform law, some want to get rid of it altogether to preserve the power of the purse for themselves.

This makes no sense.

IPAD would give politicians cover in what more often than not are contentious and reputation-scarring debates that make real progress impossible. IPAD could study the forces driving cost increases and bring medical and financial expertise to bear on cost-saving strategies.

The new health-care reform law specifies that IPAD's spending cuts would take place automatically unless Congress stepped in to block or adjust them.

Republicans are calling this a rationing board. Democrats, with their usual poor wordsmithing, are deeming it an abdication of congressional responsibility.

Both parties should smell the burning greenbacks and recognize that they are lousy cost cutters. Effective new ideas might have a chance if they aren't instantly bombed with knee-jerk ideologies by the nation's warring political parties.

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