A Senate Medicare bill slated to save $26 billion emerged from conference committee yesterday about $22 billion slimmer. Industry liposuction, I guess. Generally, these vanishing acts meet with knowing chuckles from the villains involved, but with Abramoff's hefty, wide-brimmed shadow looming over Washington, better excuses are needed. Like Charles Grassley's protests that, in fact, the bills are no different, he's just unable to do math:
House and Senate GOP negotiators, meeting behind closed doors last month to complete a major budget-cutting bill, agreed on a change to Senate-passed Medicare legislation that would save the health insurance industry $22 billion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The Senate version would have targeted private HMOs participating in Medicare by changing the formula that governs their reimbursement, lowering payments $26 billion over the next decade. But after lobbying by the health insurance industry, the final version made a critical change that had the effect of eliminating all but $4 billion of the projected savings, according to CBO and other health policy experts.[...]
Grassley disputed the CBO's interpretation of the change as "ridiculous," dismissing what appears to be a major insurance industry victory as merely a mistake in CBO calculations, not a substantive policy change. He said he accepted the policy change because he "didn't see a big difference from the Senate position and the conference position."
Of course, it was Grassley who pushed for the eliminated provisions in the first place, so his sudden blindness looks a little strange. Giant piles of money sprinkled with top-grade pharmaceuticals and presented by Colombian hookers, however, tend to have odd affects on the vision.
-- Ezra Klein
CLosed-Door Deal Makes $22 Billion Difference [Washington Post]