KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

CBO: Senate Health Bill Would Reduce Deficit $130 Billion Over A Decade

The Washington Post reports: "Democratic leaders were jubilant that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office determined that the Senate bill would cut federal deficits by $130 billion over the next decade. That projection, released shortly before midnight Wednesday, represents the biggest cost savings of any legislation to come before the House or Senate this year, but the measure's effective date also was pushed back by one year, to 2014. Democrats said the savings could prove more significant in the long run, though the CBO said they 'would probably be small,' amounting to around 0.25 percent of the overall economy, or no more than $650 billion between 2019 and 2029. Those projected reductions could prove critical in winning the support of three wavering moderate Democrats" (Murray and Montgomery, 11/19).

Kaiser Health News has posted the CBO letter.

The New York Times reports on the rules for the Congressional Budget Office, which require it "to focus on provisions that are within the control of federal legislation, which means that Democrats do not get credit for potential savings on health care expenses that they expect will result indirectly from numerous provisions in the bill, particularly 'prevention and wellness' programs that encourage healthier behavior. As a result, many Democrats insist that the legislation they have proposed will result in millions, if not billions, of dollars in health care savings that are not reflected in the official estimates of their bills." Democrats therefore "decided to write their frustrations into law, in a provision titled: 'Sense of the Senate Concerning CBO Scoring'" (Herszenhorn, 11/19).

Forbes has an analysis that finds estimates "of the cost of the reform bills wending through Congress should be viewed skeptically." The Senate health bill's "price tag is in line with what President Barack Obama has said he thinks reform should cost. (His estimate was 'around $900 billion'). But if you think health care reform is going to cost $849 billion, we have some beachfront property in Nebraska to sell you. This year's efforts at health care reform have proved that numbers are highly malleable, totally speculative and provide only part of the picture" (Wingfield, 11/18).

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