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Globe Editorial

Health costs: Pick the low-hanging fruit

July 31, 2011

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Due to a loophole in the Affordable Care Act, some middle-class people who have retired early will be eligible for Medicaid benefits designed for the very poor. This means they’ll get health care almost for free. According to the Congressional Budget Office, fixing this problem would save $13 billion between 2014 and 2021 and wouldn’t add to the ranks of the uninsured. Congress should act quickly to do so.

Legislation to make this patch, introduced last week by Republican Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming, was referred to the Finance Committee. But it shouldn’t languish - it should be quickly voted on and passed in both the Senate and House. It’s a no-brainer. That doesn’t mean it would salve the nation’s financial woes, but it would save a chunk of money and prove to Americans that Congress can still do the right thing on occasion.

In most polls, between 50 and 60 percent of Americans disapprove of Congress. The institution is viewed - justifiably - as a partisan and ineffectual, particularly in the recent fights over the debt ceiling. One way for Congress to fight this perception would be to pluck some low-hanging but substantive fruit, and it can do just that by addressing this minor - but expensive - problem.