New Obama Administration Health Care Guru: Double Counting? What Double Counting?

Is Donald Berwick, the controversial new head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, standing by the Obama administration’s double counting of savings in the new health care law? At a Senate hearing this morning, he declined to engage with official criticism of the administration's claim that the the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act extends the Medicare Trust Fund.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius has been pushing the line that the PPACA extends Medicare’s solvency for a while, despite pushback from both the Congressional Budget Office and Medicare's chief actuary, Richard Foster. And now Berwick seems to be at least tacitly on board. I didn’t get the exact quote (I’ll update when I see a transcript), but when Republican Sen. Orin Hatch questioned Berwick about the conflict between what the administration has said and what Foster has said, Berwick’s response was to suggest that the administration was simply using standard accounting methods.

At best, this is a way of not answering the question. But you can understand why he might not want to: Actually responding to the question would have required him to respond directly to statements by both Foster and the CBO that say that, in practice, the administration is wrong.

For those in need of a refresher, here’s Medicare’s actuary:

In practice the improved (Medicare hospital insurance) financing cannot be simultaneously used to finance other Federal outlays (such as the coverage expansions) and to extend the trust fund, despite the appearance of this result from the respective accounting conventions.

And here’s CBO:

To describe the full amount of HI trust fund savings as both improving the government’s ability to pay future Medicare benefits and financing new spending outside of Medicare would essentially double-count a large share of those savings.

Sebelius has almost totally refused to engage with these statements except to either ignore or misrepresent them. At one point, she went so far as to claim that the CBO agreed with HHS that there was no double counting. Now Berwick seems to be dodging too. Is it now administration policy to just pretend these reports don't exist and keep saying that there’s no double counting?

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  • ||

    simply using standard accounting methods

    The same kind that land people in white-collar prison? "standard", indeed.

  • ||

    "Is it now administration policy to just pretend these reports don't exist "

    It's not a lie if you believe it.

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    Berwick’s response was to suggest that the administration was simply using standard accounting methods.

    And Hatch just let it go at that? What a feeble, useless hack.

  • Joe M||

    Dude, it's obvious, Obamacare is using the Banach-Tarski paradox to double its money. Simple.

  • Joe M||

    Hmm, actually, I think the Fed is doing the same thing. Banach-Tarski might be official federal policy at this point.

  • ||

    Are you saying the health budget is not measurable?

  • Joe M||

    Let me put it this way, the budget was pea-sized, and now it's as big as the sun, and you're not supposed to look directly at the sun.

  • ||

    Is it now administration policy to just pretend these reports don't exist and keep saying that there’s no double counting?

    It's what they do with everything else. Why change now?

    Hey look! Over there! A shovel-ready project!

  • ||

    Multipliers!

  • Mike Laursen||

    They pull this shit, then turn around ask to be in charge of teaching our children math.

  • ||

    "Is it now administration policy to just pretend these reports don't exist "

    What is this NOW? You sound as if this is something new for these Chicago crooks.

  • ||

    "Is it now administration policy to just pretend these reports don't exist and keep saying that there’s no double counting".

    No, since everything else they have said about this health care law has been a lie, this is just a continuation of the lying.

  • ||

    WHY DO THE DEM'S THINK THAT THEY CAN ETHER IGNORE A REPORT THAT SAYS THEY ARE WRONG OR TWIST IT AND THINK THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WON'T NOTICE WHAT THEY HAVE DONE.
    I'LL TELL YOU WHY THEY THE DEM'S REALLY BELIEVE THAT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE STUPID THATS WHAT THE PRES SAID WHEN HE TOLD US THE DEM'S LOST THE HOUSE BECAUSE HE/THEY DID NOT EXPLAIN THEMSELVES WELL ENOUGH FOR US TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY WERE TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH IN OTHER WORD'S WE ARE TO STUPID TO THINK FOR OURSELVES. THEY (THE DEM'S) BELIEVE THAT THEY KNOW WHAT'S BEST FOR US AND THEY CAN'T UNDERSTAND WHY THE AMERICAN PEOPLE DO NOT AGREE SO THEY CLOSE THEIR EYE'S PRETEND THEY CAN'T HEAR OR SEE US AND HOPE WE WILL GO AWAY

  • ||

    Is it now administration policy to just pretend these reports don't exist and keep saying that there’s no double counting?

    Was that intentionally a rhetorical question?

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