CBO Score A Score For Baucus, But Others Balk
The Congressional Budget Office's score was mostly good news for Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus as he works to gain approval for his health bill and move it to the Senate floor.
Politico: "'Our balanced approach in the Finance Committee to health reform I think has paid off once again,' Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said on the Senate floor shortly after the CBO estimate was released. ... the analysis was as good as the White House or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could have wanted. ... The White House called the CBO score 'another important step forward for health reform. The analysis confirms that we can provide stability and security for Americans with insurance and affordable options for uninsured Americans without adding a dime to the deficit - and saving money over the long term,' spokesman Reid Cherlin said" (Budoff Brown, 10/7).
McClatchy Newspapers: "Baucus has said that he tried to craft a plan that can get 60 votes in the 100-member Senate, the number needed to clear procedural hurdles. His bill has many of the same features the others do, such as barring insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions, requiring nearly everyone to obtain coverage and giving financial help to those who can't afford insurance. There's been some Democratic grumbling in the Finance Committee over parts of Baucus' plan, but the CBO apparently made his task easier" (Lightman, 10/7).
The Wall Street Journal reports that "plenty of potential pitfalls remain. Democrats are still divided over core elements, including whether to create a public health insurance plan and how to pay for the overhaul. The hospital industry, a key ally, says the latest bill from the Senate doesn't expand health insurance broadly enough to meet the terms of its pledge to contribute $155 billion to the effort." The hospitals want coverage to reach 97 percent to live up to their bargain to contribute their billions to the effort (Adamy and Weisman, 10/8).
CongressDaily reports on the reaction from some hospital groups especially regarding how many uninsured people the bill will cover. They say it puts into jeopardy their pledge to help save costs in the system to the tune of $155 billion. "Charles Kahn, CEO of the Federation of American Hospitals, said Wednesday the coverage numbers at 94 percent are not enough to hold up the cost-cutting deal hospitals cut with Baucus and the White House. It does not provide sufficient coverage,' Kahn said. 'The deal depends on sufficient coverage.'" Hospitals want 97 percent of non-illegal-immigrant people covered (Edney, 10/8).
Roll Call quotes Senate Finance ranking member Chuck Grassley of Iowa: "I worry that some of my colleagues will focus only on the deficit-neutral piece of CBO's document. A celebration of the deficit effects masks who pays the bills. This package includes hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxes and fees. Most Americans with health insurance will see their premiums increase. That's according to CBO and [the Joint Committee on Taxation], the non-partisan experts" (Drucker, 10/7).
The Hill: "Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) opted not to directly criticize the Baucus bill after the CBO score emerged. Instead, he said the 'real' healthcare bill will be 'written by Democrat leaders in a closed-to-the-public conference room somewhere in the Capitol'" (Young, 10/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.