Health Care Reform Legislation Priced at Under $1 Trillion, Officials Say

By Staff Report

Jun. 29, 2009

The Congressional Budget Office said a slate of legislative options shaped in the Senate Finance Committee could be priced under $1 trillion and expand coverage to 97 percent of Americans even while some Republicans expressed doubts.

“We are much closer on scores from CBO,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana. “In fact, CBO now tells us we have options that would enable us to write a $1 trillion bill fully paid for.”

While a bill has yet to emerge from the committee, Baucus nevertheless said the number-crunching from CBO moves them closer toward a bipartisan agreement. Still, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, a senior Republican on the Finance Committee, cautioned that the numbers could be premature and would likely change.

“You can’t really make decisions until you’ve seen the language and seen the scoring,” he said, referring to the CBO cost assessment.

The announcement follows a frantic couple of days in which key lawmakers have met behind closed doors in an effort to trim about $600 billion from a set of proposals that would be used to frame a broad bill to overhaul the U.S. health care system.

It also comes as President Barack Obama continued to seek public support for reform, an effort that included a televised town hall meeting at the White House on Wednesday, June 24.

Lawmakers from both parties declined to comment on specifics of how the bill would be paid for or which options were tweaked in order to lower the overall cost.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, R-North Dakota, however, said the committee had been able to reduce costs by lowering the amount of money the federal government would pay to help subsidize some Americans as they transition from one payer group to another.

“By altering those subsidy levels, you get the more favorable scoring that shows the bill can be paid for,” he said.

Filed by Matthew DoBias of Modern Healthcare, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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