A health-care reform bill drafted by the Senate Finance Committee would expand health coverage to nearly 30 million Americans who currently lack insurance and would meet President Obama's goal of reducing the federal budget deficit by 2019, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.
The bill would cost $829 billion over the next decade, but would more than offset that cost by slicing hundreds of billions from government health programs such as Medicare and by imposing a 40 percent excise tax on high-cost insurance policies starting in 2013.
All told, the package would slice $81 billion from projected budget deficits over the next 10 years, the CBO said, and continue to reduce deficits well into the future.
It would also expand coverage to 94 percent of Americans by 2019, the CBO said, up from the current 83 percent.
This is what an ebullient Max Baucus had to say:
"This is transformative. This is game-changing," Finance committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said. "For two years now, that's exactly what we have been doing in the Finance Committee -- working to get this result."
This is the last paragraph of the story, which--by admitting that the CBO has not scored a piece of legislation but a speculative summary of a proposal that does not yet exist--renders the foregoing meaningless:
In a letter to Baucus and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the committee's ranking Republican, CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf cautioned that the analysis is preliminary in large part because the committee has not yet drawn up the bill in legislative language.
Strangely enough, the fact that this so-called estimate did not really score an existing bill is either relegated to the status of unimportant, or is completely ignored in most coverage of the issue.
And as for the people who are jubilantly beginning to declare victory, what is the nature of their triumph?
Here it is, in sum:
We will cut Medicare benefits, raise taxes, force millions of people to purchase a product they may neither want nor need, and spend an additional $80+ billion per year for a plan that--by the best estimates--will still leave 16-25 million American citizens with no health care coverage at all.
[The bill's sponsors admit it would not cover 25 million people; there is some disagreement as to how many of those folks are here illegally.]
Once again, government lives down to my expectations.