KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

CBO: Proposal Would Pound Budget, Dent Number of Uninsured

The Congressional Budget Office has found that the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee's health reform proposal would cost taxpayers about $1 trillion over the next decade and only insure 16 million people, about one-third of uninsured Americans, Politico reports. More individuals would lose employer-provided insurance they already have, or move away from government programs, prompting Republicans to say in a memo, "For all of the money the bill spends, the coverage increase is relatively anemic."

But this is not the final word, according to Politico: "Kennedy's committee has not yet specified how it would deal with the employer mandate, the public insurance option and the expansion of Medicaid, which could add hundreds of billions of dollars to the bottom line.
The CBO did not include any of these concepts in its analysis, and acknowledged that they once they were reviewed, the bottom line on costs and coverage would be impacted."

"A Democratic Senate aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about the process, said an undisclosed CBO estimate from April took into account the impact of the public option and the employer mandate – and the bottom line cost came in at about a third of the more than $1 trillion cost." 

The committee is scheduled to begin mark-up of the bill Wednesday (Brown, 6/15).

Meanwhile, Republicans used the analysis to go on the offensive, hours after President Obama presented his proposals to a critical audience at the American Medical Association, Kaiser Health News reports. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., the ranking member of the committee, said, "These early reports from CBO show that this bill will cost too much, cover too few, and cause too many to lose the coverage they enjoy now."

And based on a new Kaiser Family Foundation (KHN is a program of the foundation) survey, "two in three Americans support Obama's call for creation of a public plan to compete with private insurers, but more than half are unwilling to pay more to help extend coverage to the uninsured." In addition, "just over half of those surveyed oppose taxing the most generous employer-sponsored health benefits to help finance a major overhaul of the nation's health care system, a huge revenue-raiser that is almost certain to be included in legislation being drafted in the Senate this week, according to a survey released today" (Pianin and Carey, 6/16). 

The Senate Finance Committee "wrestled Monday with details of a health plan that would allow nonprofit cooperatives to compete with private insurers and would tax health-care benefits for the first time," the Wall Street Journal reports. The panel is seeking a more bi-partisan alternative to Obama's proposed government-run plan, and scouring resources to pay for what's likely to be a $1 trillion-plus overhaul and its proposal would have to be reconciled with other Democrat plans, such as the bill the CBO priced this week. Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) "hopes to release health-care legislation Friday, setting up formal votes next week" (Hitt and Meckler, 6/16). 

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