Democrats Talk Up Trillion Dollar Savings in Health Care Bill

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The money associated with the debate over health care reform is so enormous and so theoretical that it almost loses meaning. But as Congress winds down the debate on President Obama's top legislative priority, these estimates take on renewed importance.

According to Ezra Klein of The Washington Post, the Congressional Budget Office projects that the bill will cost $940 billion over the first 10 years and reduces the deficit by $130 billion during that period. Between 2020 to 2029 it will reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion. The CBO's official report is expected later Thursday.

In remarks to the media, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) hailed the bill as "the largest deficit reduction measure in 25 years, since Clinton's budget in 1993, which ushered in the great economy of the 1990s," Ralph Neas, head of the pro-reform National Coalition for Health Care, says in an interview that the CBO's estimates were better than expected and that there is a growing sense of optimism about the bill's prospects as several undecided members of Congress decided to back the legislation.

"The numbers appeared very good," he says.

Republicans Unhappy

As the CBO, the official arbiter of cost disputes in Congress, provided its estimates earlier today to Democrats and some members of the media, Republicans were outraged, according to The Hill.

"It's a departure from the way they've operated throughout the health debate, and to describe Republicans as pissed would be an understatement," one GOP staffer told the paper.

Anger over health care reform also is mounting in the states. As CNN noted, legislators in Idaho passed a law rejecting part of Obama's plan which mandates that every person obtain health insurance or pay a penalty. Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell is expected to sign a similar law and similar proposals are pending in 22 states, CNN says.

Though these laws are probably unconstitutional, they do reflect the growing unease about the president's proposal, even though most Americans believe that the system is in dire need of repair. Even some Democrats (including my congressman Rep. John Adler) say the plan would not do enough to control costs. Republicans, who advocate scrapping the current plan, are downright suspicious of the Democrats using the technique of reconciliation to pass the bill.

"House Democrat leaders are trying to assure their skeptical Members that the Senate will simply rubber stamp their reconciliation `sidecar' bill and send it to the White House for signature," according to the GOP Web site.

The fight over reforming health care is far from over.
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