Brian Hughes of the Washington Examiner looks into suggestions that a recent deal on the Medicare “doc fix” represents a real step toward federal entitlement reform.
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, called the “doc-fix” deal the “first real entitlement reform in decades,” and the White House framed the rare compromise as proof that Obama had not abandoned his pledge to find ways to fix benefits programs.
Yet those most vociferously pushing for entitlement reform argue that the bipartisan pact hardly improves prospects for a major deal on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, especially since the alteration in how Medicare pays doctors actually increases deficits in the short-term and over time, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The agreement struck by Republicans and Democrats, though a rare sign of bipartisan consensus on entitlements — and perhaps a fix to bad policy — did not carry as heavy a political price as overhauls that experts say are necessary to reverse budget-busting trends.
“I think they’re not reading the fine print on this,” argued Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who focuses on entitlement programs. “Essentially, they did something that had to do with an entitlement reform, but there’s going to be less budget reforms than had they left [the original formula] in place.” …
… Even if the modification works as supporters predict, it still doesn’t bode well for the prospect of entitlement reform in the near future.
Tanner floated the possibility of disability insurance reform as an area where conservatives and progressives might find common ground but said he was not optimistic about even that isolated development.
Furthermore, the appetite for wide-ranging entitlement reform is virtually nonexistent at the White House, with Obama insistent that an uptick in the economy has changed his calculations for the need to alter entitlements.