Conrad Suggests Revisiting Health Reform

Unshackled by the “need to get reelected, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) suggested Thursday that Democrats reopen the bitter healthcare debate, arguing that the reform law’s provisions could yield opportunities to cut the federal deficit,” The Hill reports.

But several Democratic colleagues rejected the idea — it did them enough damage in the last election cycle — over worries that those facing re-election in 2012 could be faced with a storm of negative political ads.

“All you do is give your opponents a chance to misinform again,” said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who is expected to face a tough campaign. “I just saw $8.5 million in misinformation on healthcare reform in Nebraska right around the time of the vote. I’m sensitive that people will be out there intentionally misinforming.”

Nelson said if Democratic leaders think they can handle entitlement reform along with proposed cuts in discretionary spending “and not lose the message, I’ll take a look at it.”

Some are inclined to wait for the reform law, which passed last year, to be implemented. They contend it could produce tens of billions of dollars in savings that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) failed to predict.

Conrad, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, “thinks there are more savings to be found in health-related entitlement programs.”

“The healthcare accounts, we’re spending one of every six dollars in this economy on healthcare. We’re heading to one of every three,” Conrad said. “There have to be further reform and savings in the healthcare accounts.”

Conrad said he “personally” liked the idea of empowering the secretary of Health and Human Services to negotiate prescription drug prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries.

Finding savings in the Medicare prescription drug benefit, however, could run afoul of a deal President Obama cut with the drug industry in 2009. The administration pledged not to support collective bargaining on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for $80 billion worth of discounts from the drug industry for seniors.

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