CMS Report Says Senate Health Care Overhaul Would Cover 34 Million
The Senate health reform bill (HR 3590) would cover an additional 34 million U.S. residents over the next 10 years and would increase health care spending over the same period by 0.6%, according to a report released on Friday by CMS chief actuary Richard Foster, the Washington Post's "44" reports (Murray, "44," Washington Post, 1/9).
The report compares the bill -- which the chamber passed on Christmas Eve last year -- with the original proposal that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) released in November 2009.
Foster issued a similar analysis of Reid's bill in early December (Budoff Brown, "Live Pulse," Politico, 1/8).
According to Foster, the final Senate bill would provide coverage to 34 million currently uninsured U.S. residents, which is one million more than Reid's version of the bill and three million more than the Congressional Budget Office had estimated.
Foster also estimated that the bill would cost $882 billion from 2010 to 2019, which is $11 billion higher than CBO's cost estimate ("44," Washington Post, 1/9).
The report also found that overall health spending would increase by $222 billion, or 0.6%, over the 10-year period, compared with a $234 billion increase that Foster projected for Reid's version of the bill.
The latest report also found that under the final Senate bill:
- The solvency of Medicare would be extended by an additional year to 10 years, instead of nine years as previously projected;
- The net increase in the government's expenses on health reform would be $279 billion, compared with $366 billion under Reid's bill ("Live Pulse," Politico, 1/8).
- Health providers could be forced to reduce their availability or raise patients' fees to meet the expected increase in demand for health care services;
- The proposed excise tax on high-cost health coverage "would have a downward impact on future health care cost growth rates," though the reduction might take several years to provide any benefit because it would be overshadowed by the increased costs related to expanding coverage (Bolton, The Hill, 1/9); and
- About 67% of U.S. residents who qualify to obtain health coverage through the proposed new health exchanges would choose to do so. However, Foster wrote that many uninsured residents likely would conclude that the proposed penalties for failing to purchase coverage are "not sufficiently large to have a sizeable impact on the coverage decision" ("44," Washington Post, 1/9).
Report Builds GOP Opposition
The report -- which Senate Republicans requested -- further stoked Republican criticism of health reform, The Hill reports. GOP lawmakers have said that the legislation is risky because it would enact Medicare cuts amid questions regarding the program's long-term solvency.
Under the Senate plan, Democrats expected to generate $483 billion in Medicare savings over the next 10 years, which includes $118 billion in cuts to Medicare Advantage plans.
Democrats countered those criticisms by noting that the bill would cut federal spending and provide more affordable health coverage (The Hill, 1/9).
Observers believe the report is unlikely to change the direction of reform talks at this late stage of the debate, "Live Pulse" reports ("Live Pulse," Politico, 1/8).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.