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Peter Merriman Headshot

Common Ground for Aircraft Carriers and Health Care

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The GOP's decision not to compromise on the sequester. This seems like the first time in memory that the GOP has agreed to cut military spending. I'm certain this is painful for the republican caucus, which is what the sequester intended.

In a perverse fashion, the Tea Party is supporting a long held progressive belief: "defense spending needs to be reduced."

When disagreeing parties attempt to compromise, the first step is to find common ground. Perhaps the Democrats and Republicans have stumbled on a tiny patch of common ground and failed to recognize it.

Defense spending reduction may be the first glimmer of common ground. It just seems to weigh heavily toward favoring the Democratic goals. The Republicans are sacrificing 8 percent of the defense budget to attain their goal of" no additional revenue" for the government. None the less, it is still common ground. Where might the Democrats find an equally painful sacrifice?

In Time, Steven Brill notes that during the Obamacare debate, Republicans pushed for a Safe Harbor defense for doctors. This would essentially allow doctors charged with mal-practice, to argue they performed the reasonable number of tests for the patient. Thus reducing the amount of excessive test performed merely to protect the doctor from lawsuits.

According to Mr. Brill, plaintiffs' lawyers heavily lobbied Congressional Democrats, resulting in the Safe Harbor defense not getting included in the Affordable Care Act.

This seems like an issue with some common ground (reduce Health Care Cost) and a little more pain for the democrats (albeit political pain, not ideological pain). Lets allow Safe Harbor Defense, and reduce needless medical tests.

The Republicans want entitlement reform, and it seems a big chunk of the electorate agrees we should reform (i.e. spend less) things like Medicare and Medicaid. The crux: people want to spend less yet receive the save services from government programs. I think Congress should simply agree to a limit on spending for Medicare and Medicaid.

Let's just freeze spending at $770 billion (the 2011 amount) for Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance program (CHIP). Progressives will worry that health care costs are rising, and this amount won't keep up with the rising costs.

Exactly the impetus we need to shift the health care discussion from the current "How to pay?" to, "How do we pay less?" Congressman Paul Ryan wants to inject consumer pressure into the health care market place by creating "premium support" or "vouchers." This is a sincere attempt on Congressman Ryan's part to reduce health care costs by having the consumers concerned with how their vouchers (money) is being spent.

A freeze on health care spending (enforced with some super sequester) would also create pressure to reduce cost. It could get both sides moving to enact legislation to lower costs. (Forbes in March 2012 said the U.S. spends about twice as much per capita on health care as peer countries such as Japan and the UK.)

But we have laws in place, which prohibit Medicare from negotiating prices with pharmaceutical companies.

Two-thirds of government spending on health care is in Medicare, which provides coverage for people 65 and older. We don't want to reduce grandma's coverage; we just want to pay less for it! Get the plaintiffs' lawyers out of the rotunda, and let Medicare negotiate, and we will be started in the right direction.