Analyst casts doubt on key health law goals

Associated Press / January 27, 2011

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WASHINGTON — Two central promises of President Obama’s health care overhaul law are unlikely to be fulfilled, Medicare’s independent economic analyst told Congress yesterday.

The landmark legislation probably will not hold costs down, and it will not let everybody keep their current health insurance if they like it, chief actuary Richard Foster told the House Budget Committee. His office is responsible for independent long-range cost estimates.

Foster’s assessment came a day after Obama in his State of the Union message told lawmakers that he’s open to improvements in the law but unwilling to rehash the health care debate of the past two years. Republicans want to repeal the law, which provides coverage to more than 30 million people now uninsured, but they lack the votes.

Foster was asked by Representative Tom McClintock, Republican of California, for a simple true-or-false response on two of the main assertions made by supporters of the law: that it will bring down unsustainable medical costs and will let people keep their current health insurance if they like it.

On the costs issue, “I would say false, more so than true,’’ Foster responded.

As for people getting to keep their coverage, “not true in all cases.’’

Foster was nettlesome to the administration throughout the health care debate, doubting that Medicare cuts would prove to be politically sustainable and raising other questions. An equal opportunity skeptic, he was also a bane to the George W. Bush administration during the debate that led to creation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit in 2003.

Obama White House officials dispute his analysis.

Foster says analysis by his office shows that the new law will raise the nation’s health care tab modestly because newly insured people will be getting medical services they would have otherwise gone without.