We don't often weigh in on electoral politcs here on New Health Dialogue, but the introduction of Paul Ryan into the race as Mitt Romney's running mate has distinctly shifted the focus of the debate onto Medicare, at least for the moment, and the editor of Delve Into '12, the New America campaign blog, asked for our thoughts.
You should definitely check out the full post (here) and the rest of their campaign commentary, but if you're short on time, here's an excerpt from the end of our post:
[...T]he Ryan budget slashes government healthcare spending, but it does relatively little to reduce total health spending. (In fact, if Ryan’s plan was implemented, it could reduce Medicare’s bargaining power and actually increase total spending.) While the ACA includes specific programs aimed at reducing waste (for instance by giving doctors incentives to reduce spending on ineffective treatments, funding research on which treatments actually benefit patients, and making it easier for cheaper generic drugs to get approved), the Ryan plan’s main savings mechanism is competition among private insurers. In theory, giving people a choice of insurer should reduce healthcare spending –people will choose plans that offer better value, forcing inefficient plans out of the market. But competition among private insurers has failed to control spending in the private insurance market for decades, so some skepticism of its ability to rein in spending on the elderly is warranted. If that doesn’t actually work and total medical spending doesn’t go down, the Ryan budget saves money by shifting spending from the federal government to individuals.
Ultimately, the Ryan budget's laser-like focus on reducing the federal deficit has led to a glaring oversight in the proposal’s healthcare component. Policy should be focused on reducing total healthcare spending, including private insurance premiums and out-of-pocket payments, not just on reducing what the federal government spends. Healthcare spending has become a drag on the economy, accounting for up to two percentage points of unemployment—and that drag isn’t dependent on whether it’s funded by the government or the private sector. That’s the much more important challenge, and the Ryan budget ignores it completely.
Enjoy the weekend!