Federal Healthcare Update

October 8, 2009

Pardon Our Dust

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By Mona Mohib
Late yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported a score for the Senate Finance Committee Bill that totaled $829 billion over 10 years. This score is a positive development for proponents of the bill, who were hoping to come in under the $900 billion goal. The CBO score also included the news that the bill would reduce deficits by $81 billion over the next decade, leaving just 25 million individuals uninsured by 2019, one third of which would be illegal immigrants. This means that around 94% of Americans would be covered under the bill. This CBO score may mean that those Senators who have been on the fence on this bill will be likely to support it. This includes Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), both of whom have stated that they would be influenced by the score.
However, many Senate Republicans were not impressed by the new numbers. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, said of the score, “The bill spends nearly $1 trillion and still leaves 25 million people without health insurance. That’s not much bang for the buck.”
It is unclear whether the Finance Committee will be able to hold a vote on the bill this week. Sen. Snowe has reportedly asked Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) for more time to study the bill. Yesterday, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that the start date for floor debate on the bill could slip to the week of the 26th in order to have enough time to merge the Finance bill with the bill that was passed by the HELP Committee.
House Democratic leaders are getting close to unveiling the final product of the three Committees that passed health care reform bills this year. The final merged bill is expected to be released sometime next week, or as soon as the bill can find 218 votes, according to a top leadership aide. Leadership has called multiple caucus meetings this week, with more planned for next week, in an attempt to hold the ideologically diverse caucus together in advance of a vote on the bill. Speaker Pelosi continues to insist that the final version of the bill will contain a public option, while many conservative Blue Dog Democrats, including Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin (D-SD), say there is a lot of work still to be done before a final compromise can be reached.