Daschle: Now's the Time for Entitlement Reform

In an op-ed in POLITICO yesterday, former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle argued that the upcoming conference committee was the perfect time to enact entitlement reforms. While conventional wisdom has suggested that a bigger deal involving reforms may seem to be elusive, Daschle suggested that there is more agreement between the two parties than meets the eye.

There are two major reasons why this decision makes sense now.

First, as congressional negotiators renew their quest for a consequential budget agreement, there will never be a more opportune moment to look at federal entitlement spending, because there’s more common ground than ever before. While Democrats oppose all efforts to repeal or defund the ACA, most acknowledge and actually support efforts to reform and modernize Medicare and Medicaid — unlike a few years ago.

Daschle argued that policymakers should focus on making health care programs more efficient, both reducing costs and increasing quality, rather than shifting costs in the health care system from the federal government to others. He pointed to a number of reports that have come up with framework and policies to save hundreds of billions from health care programs in this manner.

We know how to do this: putting more emphasis on prevention and wellness, new payment models and evidence-based and value-driven delivery reforms, along with far more transparency, new technology and improved scope of practice are just a few of the concepts that have already proved effective in accomplishing this goal.

Much of the groundwork has already been laid. Over the past two years, at the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Brookings Institution and the Center for American Progress, I have worked with both Republican and Democratic health-policy leaders who have served in government, analyzing and considering these and other reform options for both major federal health programs. While none of us supported every specific component of the proposals, we found common agreement on major improvements in quality and efficiency, representing hundreds of billions of dollars in scorable savings.

Daschle noted the slowdown in health care spending recently and the fact that the health care industry is changing the way it operates for the better. He said that lawmakers should build on the private sector's advancement and what has already been put in place in public programs to improve the health care system. And to those who say the parties won't agree on policies, Daschle concluded, "the opportunity has never appeared more fertile."