The Congressional Budget Office finally released its score of the reconciliation bill, sending bloggers running to their keyboards to write up their thoughts.
Time’s Kate Pickert: “Some people say that comprehensive health care reform is like a balloon – squeeze one part and another part expands. … House Democratic leaders worked under severe fiscal constraints in designing their reconciliation package. They had to keep the legislation under $1 trillion over 10 years, make it save more than the Senate bill did, and expand coverage and affordability to satisfy House Democrats. These are not easy rules to follow, especially when the whip count is still volatile and the clock is ticking. But they followed the rules and the package could earn endorsements from some wavering House Democrats today.”
The American Spectator’s Philip Klein: “Democrats have maintained the strategy of delaying the major spending provisions until 2014 to create the appearance that the bill is cheaper over the CBO’s ten year budget window, from 2010 through 2019. In this version, the bill spends $17 billion in the first four years, while the remaining $923 billion, or 98 percent, is spent in the next six years. I’ve illustrated this tactic in the chart below.”
Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey: “Want to see what a shabby fraud these cost estimates are? Check out the line [in the CBO table] for ‘Gross Cost of Coverage Provisions’. This is why they’re delaying the start of the program, of course. If it kicked in right away, the decade-long estimate would obviously be well into the trillions. So they simply stalled it for four years, incurring just $17 billion in costs — or 1.8 percent of the total 10-year estimate — through 2013 so that wavering Democrats could go back to their districts and tell baldfaced lies to their constituents about the pricetag. A perfect ending to this travesty.”
The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein: “The question people generally ask about the final health-care reform vote is, ‘Won’t it be politically difficult for many House Democrats to vote yes?’ But with the release of the CBO report (pdf), I’d flip that question a bit: Won’t it be substantively difficult for many House Democrats to vote no?” He points out that Democrats will be loathe to vote against a bill that extends health insurance to 32 million people, ends some of the most dreaded insurance practices like discrimination based on pre-existing conditions and cuts the deficit.”
And in a separate post Klein says: “[The CBO score] moves the story from process to substance. How Congress will vote is not a good story for the Democrats. What they will be voting on is rather better, and they’re much more comfortable talking about it.”
Cato’s Michael Cannon: “As former Congressional Budget Office director Donald Marron has explained over and over, the figure that Democrats consistently cite for the cost of their bills is only the CBO’s estimate of the cost of federal spending related to the expansion of health insurance coverage. It is not the full cost to the federal government, because each bill also spends taxpayer dollars on other items.
Marron examined the CBO’s March 11 score of the bill that passed the Senate on Christmas Eve, and found an additional $96 billion of spending over 10 years. If the most recent iteration of ObamaCare is similar, then new federal spending in that bill would be approximately $1.036 trillion — pushing the total over the president’s spending target.”
The New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn: “After weeks of negotiation, [Democrats] have agreed upon a set of amendments to the Senate health care bill. The changes mean the package as a whole will cover more people, and save more money, than the Senate bill would have originally. House Democratic leaders are saying enactment would produce “biggest deficit reduction act in 25 years.” House Majority Whip James Clyburn described himself as “giddy.”
The Democrats had to confront some tough trade-offs, too. And the amendments reflect that. In order to satisfy Congressional Budget Office accounting standards for projections after 2020, they had to accelerate a tax on benefits and pull back on financial assistance for middle- and low-income Americans for later years. Still, those sacrifices have to be weighed against the other improvements the amendments make, not to mention the lawmaking opportunity it creates.”
Wonk Room’s Igor Volksy: “This package covers 32 million Americans and, as the reduction in Medicare spending suggests, begins to slow the growth in health care spending. It reverses the current trend and lowers the deficit quite substantially over the next 20 years.
So this is something to keep in mind as Republicans ignore the deficit reductions in this score and blanked cable tv to argue that the bill is full of gimmicks (because spending starts before benefits) and the government is taking over. In fact, the reverse is true. The bill reduces the deficit over the full 20 years and slows government spending (in terms of Medicare).”