Budget analysts say GOP bill would do little to expand health insurance coverage
By Lori Montgomery
The long-awaited Republican entry in the health care debate received its assessment late Wednesday from congressional budget analysts, who concluded that the proposal would barely dent the ranks of the uninsured.
The measure would cover only 3 million additional people at a cost of $60 billion through 2019, according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. It would leave more than 52 million Americans uninsured a decade from now.
"The share of legal nonelderly residents with insurance coverage in 2019 would be about 83 percent, roughly in line with the current share," CBO director Douglas Elmendorf wrote in a letter to House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).
The costs of coverage would be more than offset by other provisions, reducing projected budget deficits by $68 billion by 2019.
Boehner plans to offer the proposal as an alternative to the Democratic package when the House debates health reform as soon as this weekend. The measure, unveiled last week after mounting taunts from Democrats, seeks to expand coverage primarily by lowering the cost of insurance through regulatory reforms, state grants, federal funding for state-based high-risk pools and an expansion of tax-exempt health savings accounts.
By way of comparison, the bill crafted by House Democratic leaders would spend $1.055 trillion to expand coverage to 36 million additional Americans, leaving 96 percent of nonelderly legal adults with coverage by 2019, according to the CBO. The Democratic bill would also do slightly more to reduce future deficits, by $104 billion over the next decade.
Republicans said their plan was not intended to rapidly expand coverage, but to take a step-by-step approach that begins with lower insurance costs. Rep. Dave Camp (Mich.), the senior Republican on the House Ways and Means Committee, hailed the CBO's assessment as confirmation that the GOP plan would bring insurance premiums down by as much as 10 percent in the small group market, a significant improvement over the Democratic bill.
"This bill will significantly reduce health care premiums and insure millions of Americans without raising taxes or spending $1 trillion, which is what the Democrats do," Camp said in a statement.
Democrats focused on the anemic coverage forecast, and noted that the GOP measure neglects popular insurance reforms, such as banning denials of coverage based on pre-existing conditions.
"Tonight CBO confirmed that the Republicans' only solution for health reform is to preserve the status quo," Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said in a statement.
November 4, 2009; 10:44 PM ET
Categories: Health Reform
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