October 4th, 2009
12:45 PM ET
13 years ago

Greenspan: Budget neutral health care overhaul not enough

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A bill to overhaul the nation's ailing health care system must avoid additional spending now, and also lower costs down the road, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said Sunday.

Greenspan told the ABC program "This Week" that the federal debt was already getting too big, so reforming health care must do more than achieve what politicians call revenue neutrality - bringing in as much money as it costs.

"You cannot continue to increase the federal debt," Greenspan said. He noted that the Medicare program for senior citizens already requires long-term borrowing to cover the costs of benefits, describing it as a "huge fiscal hole out there."

"I would say revenue neutral is not adequate" Greenspan said. "In other words, we have to not only have a revenue neutral reform program, but simultaneously recognize that we have to address the longer term."

A compromise health care proposal debated in recent weeks by the Senate Finance Committee is expected to cost almost $900 billion over 10 years, but avoid increased spending by offsetting the cost with a combination of Medicare savings and new revenue-producing fees and taxes.

It was drafted by committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, after months of negotiations with five other panel members - three Republicans and two Democrats - and represents the only proposal so far with the potential to attract any Republican support.

Another Senate committee and three House committees have passed Democratic health care plans rejected by Republicans. The Senate Finance Committee is expected to vote on its measure on Tuesday, and then the Democratic leadership in each chamber will meld together single, separate proposals for floor debate in coming weeks.

If both the House and Senate pass their respective versions, a conference committee would then negotiate a final version that would require approval from both chambers before going to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Obama has made health care reform his top domestic priority this year. He and Democratic leaders want the bill to include a government-run public health insurance option as one choice for consumers currently unable or unwilling to obtain coverage, but Republicans unanimously oppose such a plan.

Of the five proposals in Congress, only the Baucus plan in the Senate Finance Committee lacks a public option. Instead, it would allow non-profit health care cooperatives that negotiate collective coverage for members to compete with private insurers to bring down costs for low- and middle-income Americans.

Appearing later on the ABC program Sunday, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, said Democratic leaders would look for ways to have a public option included the final health care bill.

"The more the public looks at a public option, the more they like it," Schumer said, calling the idea the only way to bring real competition into consumer insurance markets. He said Democrats in Congress who hold a majority in both chambers "are going to come together" on some form of public option.

Another Democrat, Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, indicated on CNN's "State of the Union" that a public option compromise was possible.

Asked if she would vote for a bill that lacked a public option, Boxer said: "My vote will depend on the entire bill, and if there's no way to bend the cost curve and help people who have insurance in addition to those who don't, I'll vote no. But I'm very hopeful. There are very many ways to do this."

Republicans argue a public option would drive private insurers out of the market, leading to a government takeover of the health care system. Appearing with Schumer on the ABC program, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said it was a bad idea now and in the future.

"I think what's been proposed will make things worse, not better," Cornyn said.

Filed under: Health care
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. They call me Tater Salad

    How about we end those 2 farce wars we're presently engaged in so all of these private defense contractor, war profiteering parasites,(KBR/Halliburton, Blackwater/Xe and the list goes on) will stop STEALING money from this country or better yet, how about we outlaw the Wall Street standard practice of "naked short selling" of counterfit stocks from failing financial institutions and reaping huge winfalls betting on those institutions failure, which is basically just a fancy way of manipulating the market? How about that Mr. Greenspan? Care to adress that one?............Didn't think so!

    October 4, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  2. Proud member of "Global Zero:

    And we are listening to this man, why? It seems the meltdown last year will have long lasting effects. And who do you think helped get us here?

    October 4, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  3. Jim

    Why are the Republicans and so-called fiscal conservatives against a public option? Cutting the profits out of the insurance end of things is the easiest way to lower costs.

    October 4, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  4. Dan

    Greenspan should just Shut Up.

    He Screwed up in the Past.

    We have more learned Economists and Professionals to take care of the Mess created by Greenspan and Bush.

    When Greenspan had a chance to do something and show his worth, he did Nothing.

    It is too late for him to speak. A person who Failed does not have any right or standing to advise others.

    If he has any Shame, he should just Keep his Mouth Closed.

    October 4, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  5. Greenspan is a voice of reason

    Mr. Greenspan is saying what we've all been saying–stop the spending madness! Maybe he'd like to join us at a Tea Party.

    October 4, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  6. Connie, Indiana

    Hey wasn't Greenspan who said , he never saw this economic collapse coming??so why should we believe him now.. I have come the the conclusion that not a one of them knows what the hell they are talking about..Like " the fundamentals of the economy are strong", and then the bottom fell out..Lets face it this country is screwed unless rules and regs are put "back" in place so this doesn't happen again..but if that happened the rich couldn't rape the American people. Close all LOOP holes, I wish we, as common American people< had as many loop holes as these corporations do..Loops holes are only for the richy rich.

    October 4, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  7. Burns NH

    Funny you mention Medicare,but not sos.Sec. as both have been used by Congrees as a slush fund or petty cash since their inception.
    If Congress would keep their greedy hands off of the peoples man-
    dated funds they would be a lot better off. WE have only Congress
    to thank for the deficites in both.

    Dad in NH

    October 4, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  8. Buckeye

    Stop the $8 million per day drain on our treasury caused by Israel to commit war crimes and violate international law with impunity.

    October 4, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  9. Johnny in Chicago

    We're listening to Alan Greenspan again? Mr. "Selling mortgage debt as securities is a good idea?"

    Let's not discount what reform needs to do for Medicare, as well, and stop playing games.

    Fighting for a public plan is essential at this point; insurance companies, and various hotshots like Rick Scott of "CPR" are scared to death of it because it means their free ride in life is over.

    October 4, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  10. Obama's failures are piling up and up!!

    This Democratic controlled White House and Congress is going to bankrupt the nation.

    Yes, I know that Bush spent and spent on what turned out to be a very unpopular Iraqi War effort with debatable results... Just because Bush made mistakes that we will dearly pay for – it doesn't mean that the Dems have a green light to make things worse.

    Towards the end of his term – it seemed that Bush became no different than the Dems with his bailout beginnings – you Dems should be proud of his seemingly conversion to the dark side of big government controlling our lives vs. the freedoms that this country was founded upon.

    But, just how many more failures from Obama must we suffer before people (Dems and the Media) begin to hold him accountable. While his failure with Chicago hosting the Olympics is a little more than an embarrassment – Obama's failures with the economy (unemployment near 10%) and with foreign policy (Iran and Afghanistan) threaten our prosperity and our very lives.

    Obama is fast becomming outed as nothing more than an intellectual elitist with no true grasp of how to handle the job of leader of the free world.

    At least Bush kept the crazies in Iran, North Korea etc. guessing.

    It seems Obama has such an ego that he thinks all he has to do is deliver a teleprompted speech and everyone will be convinced.

    It's a shame that so many have been fooled by him – only because he can give a good speech.

    October 4, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  11. Greenspan_is_an_IDIOT

    What was this Idiot doing in the last 8 Years.

    Where were his Ideas, about what he is speaking now.

    Why did he not prevent the Boat from Sinking.

    Why is he speaking now when the Boat is Sunk.

    Greenspan is a NUT JOB.

    October 4, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  12. suzi

    funny how they never mention the fiscal black hole of two unwinnable , budget busting WARS!!! of course not, the war mongering , defense contractor loving repukes want to start another war! . can't spend any money on the citizens of the usa .

    October 4, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  13. John Demello

    Burns NH said it all. If the Democrats would keep their greedy little fingers out of Soc Sec and Medicare thoes funds would be just fine.

    Bottom line is they need to quit spending and start putting back the money they stole from all of us for their wasteful spending sprees.

    I believe we should get rid of all of them and start all over again. We have the greatest Documents ever written to go by.

    The Constitution and the Bill of Rights....................................................

    October 4, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  14. Liberals are Hypocrites

    All those criticizing "waste" in Medicare are nuts. As a healthcare worker, let me tell you that Medicare has the most stringent rules imaginable on the books when it comes to physician/hospital payments.

    As a Medicare recipient, let me also tell you that it works just great. Especially the Advantage plans, which the government now wants to "rob" to the tune of more than $500 billion. There are numerous Advantage Plans from which a senior can choose - that is competition - and that keeps insurers on their toes.

    Would this (competition) be the case with government-controlled healthcare? NOOOOOOOOO !!!!!!

    What's wrong with Medicare (and Social Security, from which recipients pay for their Medicare coverage each month) is that the government continues to rob the Social Security Fund (money earned and paid by working Americans throughout their lifetime) - to pay for pet and pork projects totally unrelated to health care coverage.

    THAT is the problem!

    October 4, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  15. hankers

    Poster: "Greenspan is absolutely correct. The health care reform being considered by Obama does not lower the cost of health care and costs too much for America" >>>>>You may be surprised what the effect of a competing public option would give. Insurance cos will need to look for efficiencies they would never pass on to lower premiums otherwise. Also, what is the value of the morality regarding health coverage?

    October 4, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  16. Bush_Should_Be_In_Jail

    OBAMA ————— vs. ————— BUSH.

    To all those who Criticize Obama for the Chicago Copenhagen Effort:

    Obama flew to Copenhagen to Canvass for Chicago.

    Obama did Nothing Wrong in doing so.

    Obama tried, just like all athletes participate in Olympics, not everyone wins.

    Obama is Criticized by GOP for Canvassing for Chicago.

    Obama tried sincerely, but did not lie to the Nation that Iraq has WMDs.

    Obama did not cause 4300 US Troops to die in the Unjustified War.

    Obama's effort to bring Olympics to Chicago is NOT A CRIME.

    Bush Lied to the Nation causing 4300 US Troops to die IS A CRIME.

    Bush should be in Jail. ———————————————————–

    October 4, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  17. unshrub

    NOW Greenspan wants to talk about deficit spending. Where was he when Bush was president?

    October 4, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  18. victim of republican greed

    We always had the constitution until Bush and his cronies trashed it.

    October 4, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  19. Four and The Door

    All the Public Option will do is give an overly expensive and inefficient health care system another pile of cash to suck from...the US Treasury. As with so many of the other programs brought in by the administration and congress, it just passes a worse mess along to future generations of Americans instead of taking the difficult steps for dealing with our problems now.

    I'm glad the greatest generation of Americans took the difficult path in the 1940's and dealt with German aggression right away instead of finding another 'strategy' that could pass it off to someone else to contend with. I thank them.

    October 4, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  20. Enough

    Did he place a call to Obama to let him know we are out of money and can't keep printing it??

    October 4, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
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