House Republicans like to talk about the need to find common ground with President Obama to make progress on important national issues, especially after the election. Yet within days, they were setting an agenda to eliminate an important element of his signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act.
Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the majority leader, recently proposed that House Republicans set their sights on repealing the part of the law that creates an independent board that is supposed to help limit growth in Medicare spending. Increases in Medicare spending have already slowed substantially, but the board will be needed to make sure that they stay low after 2014, when most of the law takes effect.
If the projected growth rate in per capita Medicare spending exceeds specified targets pegged initially to an average of general and medical inflation and later to gross domestic product, the board must recommend changes (most likely cuts in payments to health care providers) to bring the growth rate back in line. Congress can override the board’s recommendations, but it must still find equivalent savings.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that repealing the board might drive up federal spending on Medicare by $3.1 billion over a decade. Without pressure from such a board, Congress is apt to be weak in resisting demands by powerful health care groups and industries for higher Medicare reimbursements.
Mr. Cantor apparently believes that throwing around the false charge that the board will harm patient care will persuade enough members of the Democrat-led Senate to follow the House, which has voted twice to repeal the board. In a recent letter to House Republicans, Mr. Cantor said that “one of our most successful critiques” of the president’s health care reforms was that “Obamacare put the government between doctors and patients.”
Mr. Cantor has suggested that seven Democratic senators who will be up for re-election in 2014 in states that the Romney-Ryan ticket just carried might yield to Republican pressure. They would be foolish to fall for the scare tactics and force Mr. Obama to have to veto a repeal bill that would eliminate a crucial cost-saving measure.