Paul Ryan still doesn’t understand health care

The New York Times reports today on the very low expectations surrounding the Murray/Hensarling “Super Committee,” tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in savings over the next decade, and putting this bipartisan plan together over the next few months. If there’s anyone who expects the panel to succeed, he or she is hiding well.

But there’s a quote in the piece that stood out.

“I don’t think this committee is going to achieve a full fix to our problems, because Democrats have never wanted to put their health care bill on the table,” Representative Paul D. Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who leads the House Budget Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

It’s hard to overstate how little sense this makes. I share Ryan’s pessimism about the committee, but to argue that Democratic support for the Affordable Care Act dooms prospects for bipartisan progress is foolish, even for him.

The ostensible goal of the debt-reduction committee is, well, debt-reduction. Ryan wants the Affordable Care Act on the table, but what the right-wing Budget Committee chairman may have forgotten is that the Affordable Care Act reduces the debt by a substantial amount. Indeed, when Ryan’s House GOP caucus pushed a repeal measure earlier this year, the Congressional Budget Office said the Republican plan would add $230 billion to the debt, just over the next 10 years, and far more over the following 10 years.

In other words, Paul Ryan says he wants to focus on reducing the debt, but he also wants to target a health care law that happens to be the biggest debt-reduction bill passed by Congress in a long while. Even by GOP standards, that’s just absurd.

Jon Chait explained, “To understand what Ryan’s saying, you have to grasp a couple of his premises. Ryan lives in a world in which the Affordable Care Act dramatically worsens the deficit picture, and the Congressional Budget Office’s score of the bill is totally inaccurate. Ryan’s beliefs about this are based on a bunch of demonstrable fallacies, but that of course is part of the problem — the CBO is going to score any deficit-reducing bill, which means it will be scored by CBO-math instead of by Ryan-math.”

I’d add, by the way, that Ryan is on safer ground if he wants to argue that health care costs are one of the driving factors of the nation’s long-term debt, because in reality, that’s true. But even here, Ryan is still offering the wrong policy agenda, since his notorious budget plan doesn’t even try to reduce health care costs in the short- or long-term, and both he and his party tend to oppose sensible ideas — IPAB, for example — that actually bring down the cost of care itself.

Ryan is looking “to achieve a full fix to our problems”? If he understood those problems, the larger discussion would be far more constructive.