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Paul Ryan Is Thoughtful, Handsome and Misguided

Author: Peter R. Orszag, Adjunct Senior Fellow
August 11, 2012
Bloomberg.com

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As a fellow budget wonk, I like Paul Ryan a lot. But his policy proposals fall far short of his winning personality.

Ryan, the Wisconsin representative Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced today as his running mate, is both thoughtful and prolific. I could have many policy debates with him on a range of issues. Today, though, I'm going to focus on health care. Ryan's approach to health care is somewhat akin to a doctor observing that an arm is finally showing some signs of healing -- and then deciding to amputate it.

Over the past several years, health-care costs have decelerated dramatically -- suggesting our broken arm may slowly be starting to heal. But rather than reinforcing that progress, Ryan would chart a drastically different course, one that would not only shift substantial risk to beneficiaries but also, according to the Congressional Budget Office, actually raise health-care costs.

First, the good news. A report released last week by the Altarum Institute estimates that health-care costs have risen less than 4 percent over the past 12 months. The conventional wisdom to date has been that this slowdown, which has persisted for years now, is due to the weak economy. As the economy recovers, under this view, cost increases will spike again -- and if so, Ryan's toxic medicine could be seen as worth a try.

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