They Say Entitlement Reform Is Impossible. We Just Proved Them Wrong.

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The federal government is collecting more money from American taxpayers than ever before, but the budget still isn’t even close to balanced. Consequently, the national debt grows larger and larger, primarily because of mandatory spending on entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

This spiral of unsustainable spending and debt stirred scores of Americans to march in Washington and declare that they were taxed enough already. As a conservative, I couldn’t agree more, and as Speaker of the House, I’ve worked to make Washington listen.

Entrusted with a majority in the House since 2011, Republicans have made the American people’s priorities our priorities. We’ve banned earmarks, and worked to reduce spending and stop President Obama’s tax hikes. We’ve passed budgets that actually balance, and outlined plans to save Medicare from bankruptcy and rein in the debt. Because of our efforts, we’re on track to save taxpayers $2.1 trillion.

Of course, Democrats fought against these reforms virtually every step of the way, and obviously, we haven’t achieved everything we wanted. But we have had some successes, including a recent breakthrough.

For decades, Democrats in Congress have insisted their support for large spending reforms would only come in exchange for large tax increases. Yesterday, however, the president signed bipartisan legislation that would strengthen Medicare, put the program on a sounder financial footing, and achieve real, long-term savings for taxpayers. The bill passed the House in March by a vote of 392-37, and then in the Senate last week 92-8. Notably, it represents the first real entitlement spending reforms passed in nearly two decades, all without any tax hikes. These two facts are big wins for conservatives.

Here’s why: over the long term, the two structural reforms in the bill will save taxpayers hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars.

Now, it’s true that these reforms are phased in over time, which means there are some costs up front. But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) confirmed that the bill would result in net deficit reduction by its second decade, and that savings from the reforms “would increase especially rapidly” beginning in 2025. The Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) agreed, finding that the bill would extend Medicare’s solvency and reduce its actuarial deficit. Instead of kicking the can down the road, we’re saving money down the road.

Going forward, higher-income seniors will pay a little more toward their premiums, and certain Medigap supplemental insurance plans will have limits on first-dollar coverage. These two changes will encourage beneficiaries to think more like consumers when it comes to their health care choices. This is a free-market, conservative approach to reducing health costs and saving money. In fact, policy experts at the Heritage Foundation and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget have long supported these very ideas.

Our bill also repeals a notorious Washington gimmick called the “doc fix.” Nearly 20 times during the past dozen years, under the misnamed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, doctors were scheduled to receive steep, automatic cuts to the payments they receive for treating Medicare patients. Every time, Congress temporarily canceled the cuts instead of instituting permanent reforms. This time, though, was different, and now CBO has calculated our solution will “cost $0.9 billion less over the 2015–2025 period,” saving taxpayers money compared to the path we’ve been on.

Make no mistake, this bill hasn’t fixed all of our fiscal problems or saved Medicare completely. We all know that much more must be done to save our entitlement programs, but we have to start somewhere. After all, it’s been nearly two decades since the last entitlement reforms were enacted. We can’t wait that long for the next opportunity. So this bill is an important step in the right direction – toward market-based entitlement spending reform without massive tax increases.

Conservatives should be happy we got this done, and confident Republicans will continue fighting to curb Washington’s worst habits for the sake of our children’s future.

House Speaker John Boehner has represented the people of Ohio’s Eighth Congressional District since January 1991. He is a former small business owner and former chairman of the House Education & the Workforce Committee.


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