The Congressional Budget Office released its updated cost estimate of the Senate Finance Committee bill Wednesday afternoon following hours of Twitter speculation among health policy journalists and wonks. The mood was aptly captured by Politico’s Mike Allen, who declared “CBO OMG” in his daily agenda spotlight, Politico Playbook.
CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf was even more serious than usual, and just gave a run down of the estimate that’s shorter than the official report delivered to Finance Chairman Baucus.
Heritage’s Conn Carroll: “The New York Times awarded Baucus with the headline that the White House has been searching for since the debate first began: “Health Care Bill Gets Green Light in Cost Analysis.’” Carroll says, “But this headline and the accompanying article are fundamentally dishonest,” because it’s not an official CBO score (it was a called “an analysis”), but rather the ‘Chairman’s Mark’, which is written in laymen’s terms. Carroll continues, “Not only does the Baucus bill not even really exist, just a Vapor Bill filled with conceptual language, it is about to be completely thrown out the window when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) merges it with the deficit busting HELP bill to move it to the Senate floor.”
The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein: “Meet the New Health-Care System, Not That Different From the Old Health-Care System.” He goes on. “This bill will change the insurance situation for 37 million legal residents, 29 million of whom would otherwise be uninsured. That’s a big step in the right direction. But most people will never notice it. When I got an early glimpse of the Senate Finance Committee’s bill back in June, I called it “comprehensive incrementalism,” and I stick by that label. It makes a lot of things a bit better, but it’s not root-and-branch reform.”
Hot Air’s Allah Pundit on the line in the analysis “Those estimates are all subject to substantial uncertainty:” “Expect that to be a key GOP talking point given that (a) amendments to Baucus’s bill will wreak havoc with this analysis and (b) Medicare’s initial projection of $12 billion in expenditures for the year 1990 turned out to be “uncertain” too. How uncertain? Actual 1990 expenditures ended up at $107 billion, a cool 800 percent higher than Congress thought they’d be. Woe unto him who relies on any conservative estimate of how much a giant social program will cost.”
The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn: “This is something we’ve known for a while: The Senate Finance bill isn’t as generous or as protective as it ought to be. But the fact that the measure would actually save money means, or should mean, there’s a bit more room (financially and politically) to throw additional funds at expanding/improving insurance coverage–ideally, by raising a little more money in taxes and/or offsetting savings.”
Donald Marron says the cost estimates released don’t represent the whole picture: “There is a difference between the cost of the Baucus bill ($904 billion) and the cost of its provisions to expand coverage ($829 billion). It is understandable that most commentary focuses on the health insurance provisions. But we should not forget the other $75 billion in spending on other initiatives. Dollar-for-dollar they deserve as much scrutiny as the coverage expansions.”
Wonk Room’s Igor Volksy prepared a table that compares the first Finance bill draft with the final bill.
The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle: “So most of the major components of the program are scheduled to either cost more, or raise less revenue . . . but overall, it’s generating a bigger surplus. It’s the healthcare economist’s version of “We’re losing money on every unit, but we’ll make it up in volume!”
And in a more neutral take, Jacob Goldstein of The Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog identifies “Five Key Numbers,” plus a special “bonus” number, on insurance co-ops.