Thursday, July 02, 2009

New CBO estimate says Public Plan lowers costs & covers more

A couple of weeks ago, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a preliminary score of the health care legislation under consideration in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. The bill was estimated to cost $1 trillion over 10 years, while reducing the number of uninsured by "only" one-third. As many informed observers noted at the time, the cost estimate was incomplete because the legislation that the CBO reviewed did not contain language about a public health insurance plan or an employer mandate. Nevertheless, Republicans seized on the opportunity to engage in merciless political attacks, citing the incomplete CBO score as proof that health care reform is not worth doing: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said "the CBO estimates were a death blow to a government run health care plan," and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said "[the CBO estimate] should be a wake up call for all of us to scrap the current bill and start over in a true bipartisan fashion." But the proposal lacked a public health insurance option or an employer mandate, provisions that would drastically change the size, scope and estimate. Now the HELP committee has submitted a full bill -- and the result is drastically different. The "plan carries a 10-year price tag of slightly over $600 billion, and would lead toward an estimated 97 percent of all Americans having coverage." In addition, "the [employer mandate] provision is also estimated to greatly reduce the number of workers whose employers would drop coverage, thus addressing a major concern noted by CBO when it reviewed the earlier proposals." Additionally, the incoming president of the American Medical Association, Dr. J. James Rohack, said his organization now supports a public plan, after initially indicating its opposition, adding that the AMA supports an "American model" that includes both "a private system and a public system, working together."