Eleven of 18 members of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform—representing a little more than 60%—supported The Moment of Truth (PDF), a final report that aimed to stabilize the nation's debt by 2014 and achieve nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction by 2020. Released on Dec. 1, the final report said “federal healthcare spending represents our single largest fiscal challenge over the long-run,” and sought to curb those costs. The provisions included reforming the sustainable growth rate formula and Medicare cost-sharing rules; reducing excess payments to hospitals for medical education; cutting Medicare payments for bad debt; and placing dual-eligibles in Medicaid managed care. It also included a medical malpractice reform provision with a recommendation to impose statutory caps on punitive and non-economic damages.
Members of commission, however, were encouraged that strong support for the report will now ignite serious debate about fiscal responsibility among federal lawmakers.
“There is no question you can see how truly thrilled I am that a strong bipartisan majority of you have voted yes to this report,” Erskine Bowles, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton and one of the commission's co-chairmen, said at a hearing Friday. “But you're right: this is the first step. It's now up to the members of Congress and the members of the administration to work together, to pull together, not pull apart, and work in a non-partisan manner as you have here.”
Others echoed Bowles' enthusiasm, including Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), who voted in favor of the proposal. Crapo emphasized that achieving more than 60% approval in Congress is enough to pass any legislation, so the commission's failure to get 14 votes does not indicate that leaders lack the ability to move ahead aggressively on this issue.