Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bush and Obama in Lockstep on Federal Government Healthcare

Medicare Part D, the prescription drug benefit entitlement that is largely funded from general revenue, was enacted in 2003 (the benefits began in 2006) under the watchful eye of President George W. Bush and Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. The net cost of the program during 2006-18 is estimated at $727 billion.

Republican presidential wannabees typically make the rounds of “conservative” think tanks to embellish their credentials, sign up advisers, and glean ideas that might prove fruitful in their campaigns. Among these visits to the Hoover Institution was George Allen, former senator and governor of Virginia. I asked him why Republican senators voted for Medicare Part D, given their philosophy of limited government and that Part D was a new entitlement that entailed an increase in government spending.

His answer? If we didn’t support it, Democrats would get credit for it.

Republicans were in unanimous opposition to President Barack Obama’s expansion of health insurance as a new entitlement. The Congressional Budget Office estimated the cost at $940 billion for Obamacare during 2010-19, but which is “paid for” by a combination of new taxes and Medicare cuts and efficiencies. Republicans and some economists question CBO’s estimate as understating the cost of Obamacare. Still, there is no gainsaying that Democrats went through the motion, even if pretending, to achieve deficit neutrality. This effort can be compared with complete disregard on the budgetary impact of Part D on the part of President Bush and the Republican Congress in 2003.

I’m not particularly enamored of Obamacare and greater federal control over health care, But, given its recent history, one can question the sincerity of the Republican Party’s commitment to controlling spending and deficits.

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