Sure, Put Obamacare On The Table

by Stuart Shapiro

One of the more ludicrous demands that the GOP is making is that Obamacare be a part of the fiscal cliff negotiations.  This is ludicrous because a) The Affordable Care Act is likely to reduce the deficit, b) the parts that the GOP want to take out are the ones that most explicitly attack the deficit, and c) President Obama won the election.  Jonathan Zasloff doesn’t react with outrage to the demand though; he says, “Bring it On.”

If we’re talking about reducing entitlement payments, wouldn’t it be great if we could find something that could save, say, $500 billion over ten years, but not reduce access to coverage and actually make the health care system more efficient?

Oh wait: we do! Remember the public option? That’s what it would do, according to the Lewin Group and the Urban Institute. Both studies estimated a public option at saving the federal budget $50 billion a year. And if anything, those estimates are conservative, because they do not assume that Medicare providers would be mandated to accept public option patients (as they should be), and they also assume large “cost shifts,” i.e. increases in private insurance costs, which have no empirical basis. So I say put Obamacare on the table and put in a strong public option.

If the Republicans are serious about deficit reduction, let’s see if they want to add a public option to the Affordable Care Act  (of course, they aren’t serious; they just want lower tax rates on the wealthy).

About Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels. Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush.

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