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Sen. Cornyn Says First Installment of Democrats' Health Reform Plan Would Raise Deficit $250 Billion

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

By Robert Farley
PolitiFact


If you heard Sen. John Cornyn's comments on CBS's Face the Nation on Oct. 18, 2009, you may have thought the Democrats' big health care reform plan was coming to the Senate floor this week and that it would explode the federal deficit.

"In fact, this week, Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled to vote on the first installment of health care reform, which will violate the president’s promise not to raise the deficit by one dime," Cornyn said. "In fact, it will raise the deficit by $250 billion."

The very same day, White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said on CNN's State of the Union that the president's health care plan is "more than deficit neutral."

So what gives?

Emanuel is correct that the Congressional Budget Office looked at the version of the health care bill authored by Sen. Max Baucus, the Montana Democrat who chairs the Finance Committee, and concluded that the bill would cost $829 billion over 10 years, but that offsetting funding for it would actually reduce the federal deficit by $81 billion.

But Cornyn's not talking about that plan. He's talking about an issue that has been largely absent from the health care debate: a proposal to fundamentally change the way doctors are paid by Medicare.

Here's the backstory. For more than a decade, Medicare payments to physicians have been limited by a cost-containment formula called the Sustainable Growth Rate, which is tied to the growth rate of the economy (but not to health care costs, which have been growing faster). The problem is, it would require such deep cuts to doctors' pay that Congress has stepped in to make temporary fixes....(Remainder.)

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