CBO Projects Cost of Senate Finance Panel’s Draft Plan at $900 Billion
The Senate Finance Committee's draft health reform bill would cost less than $900 billion over 10 years, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate, Politico reports.
Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who announced the CBO score on Wednesday, said that the projection was "encouraging," adding, "The bill would actually reduce the federal deficit in the 10th year by several billion dollars" (Budoff Brown, Politico, 7/29).
Baucus said CBO also projected that the draft bill would extend health insurance coverage to 95% of U.S. residents by 2015, two years after the bill would be implemented, and that the legislation would be fully offset (Hitt, Wall Street Journal, 7/29).
According to the CBO analysis, employer-sponsored coverage would increase under the legislation (Edney, CongressDaily, 7/29).
However, Baucus noted that the CBO report "does not include resolution of several key issues" (Norman/Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 7/29).
According to The Hill, the Finance Committee's bill in its current form does not include two Democratic priorities:
- A public health insurance option; and
- A requirement that most employers offer health benefits to workers.
Both of those provisions are included in the House bill (HR 3200) and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee's bill (Young, The Hill, 7/29).
CBO has estimated that the House and HELP Committee bills would actually increase health care spending growth (CongressDaily, 7/29).
Republicans React to CBO Score, Negotiators
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) -- a member of the Finance Committee group negotiating a bipartisan deal and ranking member of the Senate HELP Committee -- said that there is "no deal" yet on health reform in the committee and that the CBO score is not official because the bill's language has not been finalized.
Enzi said that discussions on 13 major issues and several smaller ones are continuing. He said, "There are a number of us on both sides of the aisle who are insisting that there be exact language and a true CBO score," adding, "They're not even close to having exact language, much less a true CBO score" (Norman/Jansen, CQ HealthBeat, 7/29).
Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) -- also a member of the negotiating group -- cautioned that a deal is not "imminent" because concerns over cost and savings remain unresolved.
On Wednesday, Grassley told reporters from his home state that the negotiating group is making progress and has agreed on about 95% of the issues. However, he said that "the 5% that are left are very difficult, and I can't say that we're on the edge of getting them decided, but we're making some progress by inches" (Drucker, Roll Call, 7/29).
On NPR's "Morning Edition" on Wednesday, Grassley spoke about the negotiations in the Finance Committee and efforts to reach a bipartisan consensus (Inskeep, "Morning Edition," NPR, 7/29).
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), a member of the Finance Committee, on Wednesday said that the committee likely will not reach an agreement on the legislation before September (Norman/Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 7/29).
Democrats Respond to Delays
Some Democratic senators are concerned that legislation resulting from bipartisan negotiations "could yield a bill they can't support," CQ HealthBeat reports.
In addition, Senate HELP Committee Democrats are growing increasingly impatient as the Finance Committee negotiations have kept the panels from merging the reform bills and holding a floor vote on the measure before the August recess, CQ HealthBeat reports.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a member of the HELP Committee, said that his Democratic colleagues would feel more comfortable with the Finance Committee's negotiations if the end results were clearer.
Whitehouse said Baucus has received "substantial trust," adding, "It has been difficult for Democrats outside the three inside this secret negotiation to respond to Republican attacks because we frankly don't have information about what it is that we would be defending. I think it would be very, very difficult to leave for the August recess without the Finance Committee even having laid down a bill" (Jansen, CQ HealthBeat, 7/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.