Thursday, July 16, 2009

Health Bills To Increase Federal Costs

From CQ Politics:

The health care overhauls released to date would increase, not reduce, the burgeoning long-term health costs facing the government, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf said Thursday.

That is not a message likely to sit well with congressional Democrats or the Obama administration, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday she thinks lawmakers can find ways to wring more costs out of the health system as they continue work on their bills.

The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Democrat Max Baucus of Montana, who has not yet released a bill, said his panel is acutely aware of the long-term cost concern. “Clearly our committee will do what it can,” he said. “We are very seriously concerned about that issue. We very much want to come up with a bill that bends the cost curve.”

But Baucus suggested the White House is making the task difficult with opposition to one cost-cutting approach Elmendorf cited — limiting or even ending the tax exclusion for employer-provided health benefits.

The Democrats and President Obama have cited two goals in their overhaul proposals — expanding coverage to the estimated 47 million Americans who currently lack it and bringing down long-term costs because the growth in Medicare and Medicaid spending threatens to swamp the federal budget in coming years.

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