Health Bills Present Formidable Challenges To Numbers Crunchers
The House Democratic leadership is expected to unveil its health-overhaul legislation Thursday, the Associated Press reports. The next step will be for the merged bill consolidated from three separate committee reports to go to the Congressional Budget Office for a cost estimate, before lawmakers vote. In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid is awaiting the CBO's analysis of his bill, before taking it to the floor (10/29).
"CBO's answers will help determine whether the public option lives or dies. Even whether we get reform or not," according to PBS' Nightly Business Report. The budget office will face significant challenges in preparing a forecast, however, and it will have broad margins of error. A former director of the office told Nightly Business Report that many of the new, untested provisions in the bill, like health exchanges and interstate insurance markets, would be difficult to estimate. He also points out that the CBO is constrained by congressional demands. For instance, lawmakers insist that they are scheduled to cut doctors pay by 20 percent in the next few years, and for budgeting purposes, Congress ignores the fact that they are extremely unlikely to do so (Gersh, 10/28).
Meanwhile, "Senate Democrats are concerned that cost estimates for a health care reform bill will not be available for another week and a half, pushing back their quest to begin debating the bill on the floor sometime next week," Roll Call reports. "That timeline could complicate Reid's ability to finish debate before Thanksgiving, because the Veterans Day holiday on Nov. 11 falls on a Wednesday and the Senate is not expected to be in session that day or the remainder of that week. That would leave just one full week of floor debate on the bill before Thanksgiving on Nov. 26" (Pierce, 10/28).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.