After watching this video (which unfortunately can't be embedded) and reading the accompanying article in the Financial Times, I'm beginning to wonder whether in focusing on the insurance mandates, I (and most other Obamacare critics) have missed an even more horrible monster lurking within the healthcare bill.
According to the chirpy Edward Luce,
A body to regulate the expensive Medicare system of healthcare for US seniors could have as big an impact on health policy as the Federal Reserve has had on monetary policy, according to Peter Orszag, the White House budget director.
The Medicare Commission, or Independent Payments Advisory Board, would have the power to override Congress if it rejected cuts to the entitlements programme for seniors, said Mr Orszag, a key architect of the reforms signed into law this week.
If it's so important and great, I wonder why no one in the White House was talking about it until after the law was passed?
The commission seems to be the government's response to charts like this one.
It's obvious to everyone that America's entitlement system is a complete disaster, and it must dawn on Obama's budget director that adding Obamacare beenfits to it isn't exactly helping matters. But in one of the most ridiculous lines I've heard in quite some time, Orszag suggests around 1:30 that the Congressional Budget Office might be overestimating the costs of Obamacare, due to, you known, bureaucrats' historic tendency of being too cautious in estimating costs... I don't think even Orszag believes this one. As I wrote just before the bill was passed,
Back when Medicare was first rolled out, it cost a measly $3 billion, and it was estimated that it'd reach $10 billion over the next 25 years. In fact, Medicare was costing over $100 billion during that stretch, and now requires over $700 billion in federal funds, taking up a quarter of the entire national budget.
Regarless of what Orszag actually thinks Obamacare will end up costing, the new commission is established to cut existing benefits, particularly Medicare, and redistribute these funds to the commission's preferred beneficiaries. This won't be noticed by seniors, according to Orszag, due to what he giggly refers to as "the political economy of delayed implementation," which sounds a lot like boiling a frog.
To get an idea of what might happen, one could turn to Robert Reich's 2007 lecture at Berkeley in which he gave a speech like the one, he said, a liberal presidential candidate would give if he weren't a liar. He promised young people that they'd pay more and old people that they'd die sooner -- to the applause of the undergrads in the audience. (Hat tip: Richard Hoste.)
I have a hard time defending the Medicare system... but to be frank, I think "Death Panels" seems like a pretty accurate description of the new Independent Payments Advisory Board.