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Unhealthy Debt

Real health care reform is the only way out of our budget woes.

Aug 8, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 44 • By JAMES C. CAPRETTA & YUVAL LEVIN
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In April, the House passed a budget that moves Medicare and Medicaid decisively in this direction. Such a step, and a similar approach for the individual market and small employers, is essential for our health care system, and for the nation’s fiscal future. If there ever is to be a grand bargain with the Democrats, Republicans must make reforms like these their absolute bottom-line demands​—​because our badly broken health entitlement system is at the heart of the government debt problem.

During the recent negotiations, Democrats closed off the path to real health reforms. Their top priority was tax increases. But as the president himself put it in early July, “if you look at the numbers, then Medicare in particular will run out of money and we will not be able to sustain that program no matter how much taxes go up.”

For Republicans, spending cuts have been the top priority, and rightly so. But the real problem is spending on health-entitlement programs. If that category of spending is not brought under the discipline of an effective marketplace, then American health care, and our economy as a whole, will be on the road to ruin.

Genuine health care reform therefore needs to be at the core of the Republican case for fiscal sanity​—​a case that in turn must be front and center in the 2012 election. That election may well be the only real chance we have left to avoid a genuine debt crisis and set America back on the path to enduring prosperity and strength.

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