Capitol Briefing – CBO Says Senate Health Bill Would Expand Coverage, Reduce Deficit
CBO Says Senate Health Bill Would Expand Coverage, Reduce Deficit
Updated 5:06 p.m.
By Lori Montgomery and Shailagh Murray
A health-care reform bill drafted by the Senate Finance Committee would expand health coverage to nearly 30 million Americans who currently lack insurance and would meet President Obama’s goal of reducing the federal budget deficit by 2019, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.
The bill would cost $829 billion over the next decade, but would more than offset that cost by slicing hundreds of billions from government health programs such as Medicare and by imposing a 40 percent excise tax on high-cost insurance policies starting in 2013.
All told, the package would slice $81 billion from projected budget deficits over the next 10 years, the CBO said, and continue to reduce deficits well into the future.
It would also expand coverage to 94 percent of Americans by 2019, the CBO said, up from the current 83 percent.
The assessment by Congress’s nonpartisan auditors has been awaited by committee members as they prepare to vote on the bill, perhaps as soon as Thursday. And the CBO report lends a huge political boost to the Finance Committee’s work: distinguishing it as the only one of five bills drafted by various congressional committees that meets every important test established by President Obama and key Democratic leaders.
— It would cost less than $900 billion over the next decade;
— It would vastly expand coverage; and
— It would keep Obama’s pledge that health reform will not increase budget deficits by “one dime” now or in the future.
“This is transformative. This is game-changing,” Finance committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said. “For two years now, that’s exactly what we have been doing in the Finance Committee — working to get this result.”
The committee’s vote is expected to be close, and passage could hinge on a handful of senators who have indicated that the CBO’s report may sway them.
In a letter to Baucus and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the committee’s ranking Republican, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf cautioned that the analysis is preliminary in large part because the committee has not yet drawn up the bill in legislative language.
By Lori Montgomery | October 7, 2009; 4:33 PM ET