Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
The Congressional Budget Office has released its much-awaited estimate on the cost of the health care reform bill drafted by the Senate Finance Committee.
Doug Elmendorf, the CBO director, estimated
the bill will cost $829 billion over 10 years and will expand insurance coverage to 94 percent of Americans. Most important for fiscal conservatives on the committee, the measure is expected to reduce the overall federal budget deficit by $81 billion over the decade because reforms will cut the cost of health care overall. But in a letter to Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Elmendof cautioned, "those estimates are all subject to substantial uncertainty."
Baucus, the chairman of the committee, had delayed a vote on the bill until the CBO projection, or "score," came out because a number of senators said they would not vote without knowing the bill's impact on the federal budget. In reaction to the CBO score, Baucus called the bill "a smart investment on the federal balance sheet," and said he was particularly happy with the plan to expand health coverage to tens of millions more Americans.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the CBO numbers mean that the Senate is closer to reforming health care than it has been in 60 years. He also said he is working to get to 60 votes in the Senate.
The committee will vote on the bill later this week, but truly curious Capitolists can see the CBO's analysis at www.CBO.gov