More than a decade ago, lawmakers passed a law that was supposed to solve that problem by capping payments to doctors. According to the law, fees paid to doctors under Medicare will be slashed by 21.5 percent this year, and by 40 percent over the next five years. Of course, no lawmaker wants to be accused of cutting payments to doctors. So every year lawmakers in both parties vote overwhelmingly to override their own law.
And that’s the problem. Overriding the scheduled cuts this year would add about $250 billion to the cost of ObamaCare, and put the president at risk of violating his promises not to increase the deficit. Instead, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid proposed a stand-alone bill that pundits called the “doc-fix” bill. It aimed to spend $250 billion over the next 10 years without that spending counting toward the price of any proposed health care reform bill.
Senators used a procedural maneuver to prevent that bill from being voted on. But the idea of shifting spending from one column to another to hide costs may make a comeback as lawmakers debate health reform behind closed doors.
The late Sen. Everett Dirksen supposedly said, “A billion here, a billion there -- and pretty soon you’re talking real money.” We could paraphrase that today: “$250 here, $250 billion there -- eventually you destroy an already teetering entitlement system.”
These are changes our government can’t afford. And they’re ones the American people shouldn’t stand for.
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