CBO: Baucus bill shaves deficit by $81 billion

October 8, 2009 by MassDevice staff

Healthcare reform legislation out of the Senate Finance Committee would pare $81 billion over 10 years from the federal deficit, according to a preliminary estimate from the Congressional Budget Office; finance panel set to vote Oct. 13; reform proponents eye key on-the-fence votes.

CBO: Baucus bill shaves deficit by $81 billion

The Senate Finance Committee's healthcare reform bill would cut the federal deficit by $81 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office, which also said the deficit tripled to $1.4 trillion this year.

But the CBO's estimate, which puts the total cost of the finance panel's bill at $829 billion, is "preliminary" and "significant changes" could be in store once it has a chance to review the full text of the bill, the Bloomberg news service reported.

Even so, the report sets the stage for a final vote by the committee Oct. 13. Whatever emerges from that session will go to the Senate floor, along with the Senate health committee's version, which it passed in July. One key Finance Committee Democrat, North Dakota's Kent Conrad, said that process could take a while.

"It will be months before this is concluded," Conrad said, according to Bloomberg.

For the Finance Committee bill to make it to the full Senate, chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) must corral both leery fellow Democrats and at least one Republican. The leading candidate for a nod from the G.O.P. side is Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), moderate who's kept her cards close to the vest during the prolonged haggling over the measure.

Snowe wants some time to mull the CBO report before coming to a decision on the bill, the news service reported.

"I would rather have the comfort level of having sufficient time to analyze it over the weekend," she said.

Another potential swing vote, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), said the CBO study is a move in the right direction.

"Any time the numbers improve on something, you feel real good about it," Nelson told the news service.

Most of the tab for the measure will be paid by savings from $404 billion in cuts to Medicare and other government insurance programs. Another $201 billion comes from a 40 percent excise tax on so-called "Cadillac plans," or generous health insurance plans, with the remainder from taxes on healthcare-related industries including medical device makers, insurers and pharmaceutical firms and from changing the way health expenses are taxed.