Peter Orszag notes that at the precise moment health-care costs look to be picking up again, House Republicans are voting to repeal one of Obamacare's most powerful cost controls — the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).
Orszag, who helped conceive of the board when he worked in the Obama administration, offers a useful history of the idea and a rundown of its promise. But I want to make a slightly different point.
When Obamacare was grinding through the legislative process, a common conservative complaint was that its cost controls would prove to be a bait-and-switch: Democrats would pass harsh, deficit-reducing measures like the IPAB or the excise tax into law, which would make it look like Obamacare saved money, but then Democrats would repeal those policies before they took effect.
That complaint is proving half true. Members of Congress really are trying to repeal some of Obamacare's toughest cost controls, and if they succeed, they really would make Obamacare a budget-buster.
The catch is that it's not Democrats trying to repeal Obamacare's cost controls, but Republicans.
That's true on two levels, actually. First, Republicans are trying to repeal specific policies, like IPAB, that are unpopular because they control costs. But second, Republicans are trying to repeal Obamacare in its entirety — a move that Congress's official budget agency says would increase the deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars over the next two decades, and for which Republicans have produced no offsets.
So far, however, the conservative commentators who were so concerned that Democrats would repeal Obamacare's cost controls have not been as worried about the Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare's cost controls.