CBO Scores Complete HELP Bill and the News is Good


When the Congressional Budget Office did its preliminary analysis of a sketchy outline of the Senate HELP committee’s vision of health care reform, the outlook was not-so-good. The bill was estimated to cost $1 trillion over 10 years, while reducing the number of uninsured by “only” one-third. At the time, voices of reason tried to point out that this was a preliminary estimate of a bill that was missing many crucial elements so we ought to reserve judgment. But Faiz Shakir reminds us that key conservative legislators were not so kind:

John McCain: “[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.”

John Boehner: “[T]he public option would cost over $1 trillion, and would cause 23 million Americans to lose their private health care coverage.”

Lindsey Graham: “The CBO estimates were a death blow to a government run health care plan.”

It’s a sign of the ignorance or dishonesty of Boehner and Graham that they made those remarks even though the absence of analysis of the impact of a public health insurance option was precisely one of the shortcomings of the initial analysis. At any rate, now a more fleshed-out version of the bill is available and as the AP reports things now look much better:

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, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and Chris Dodd said in a letter to other members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. […]

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.

John Cohn explains that this $900 billion figure is actually somewhat misleading, and fully covering this 97 percent should cost more like $1 trillion to $1.3 trillion. That’s a lot of money, but the gains in coverage are major. Given that the right was so impressed by the CBO score of the preliminary draft, will they also be so impressed by this new, more accurate score of the more completed draft? If they’re honest and principled they ought to be and they ought to recognize that this is a pretty good bill.