This morning in a speech on the Senate floor, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) argued that the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) preliminary estimate of the HELP Committee’s health care legislation “should be a wake up call for all of us to scrap the current bill and start over and start over in a true bipartisan fashion“:
The Congressional Budget Office released a letter that stated that the Kennedy bill, the bill now pending for mark-up tomorrow, beginning tomorrow in committee would insure only one-third, only one third of the 47 million Americans who are currently uninsured for the cost of a trillion dollars….I strongly believe that we have to start over and act in a truly bipartisan fashion to address the issue.
As the Huffington Posts’ Sam Stein explains, “the CBO’s findings, however, are for an incomplete piece of legislation, making the cost-per-coverage estimates much worse than they will ultimately be. Republicans on the committee knew this, according to Democrats. But they pushed for the bill to be studied by the CBO now. And when poor results came back, they ran with them.”
Indeed, McCain is following the lead of Reps. John Boehner (R-OH), Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) in pretending that the organization’s estimates — which found that 15 million Americans would lose their employer-sponsored coverage and only 16 million uninsured Americans would obtain coverage — considered the whole of the legislation.
But as CBO chief Douglas Elmendorf pointed out in his letter to HELP Chairman Ted Kennedy, since the draft legislation did not include language on the extent of the employer’s responsibility or expansion of Medicaid, “those figures are not likely to represent the impact that more comprehensive proposals…would have both on the federal budget and on the extent of insurance coverage.”
“The bottom line is that we should expect the real bill to have a somewhat higher cost number but a much higher number of people getting health coverage,” Matt Yglesias writes. “Consequently the cost per person will be much lower and the legislation will look much more reasonable.” Moreover, as a new report by Ken Jacobs and Jacob Hacker explains, an employer mandate to build on the existing coverage would “reduce the incentive for firms to drop coverage” and enable most Americans to keep their existing employer-sponsored health care plans:
The employer contribution level will need to be high enough to reduce the incentive for firms to drop coverage, while also taking into account firms’ abilities to absorb the higher costs. If a sliding scale is used, payroll cost is a better measure of firms’ ability to pay than the number of employees. Sliding scales should be designed in such a way to minimize cliffs by size of firm.
In his rather bizarre floor speech, McCain called for greater bipartisanship in crafting health care reform legislation but then demanded to see the administration’s bill and re-introduced his campaign health care proposal, which, despite being rejected by all of the major stakeholders, McCain promised would be enacted “within weeks.”