Tag Archives: Congressional Budget Office

Can CBO News Boost the Public Option?

We’ve been hearing for quite awhile now that adding a public option to healthcare reform would break the bank. “More than a trillion dollars!!!” lawmakers screamed. And many of them were Democrats. Now comes word that a preliminary estimate from the Congressional Budget Office puts the cost of a House Democratic bill with a public option at $871 billion.

For those who like to count numbers, that’s less than the $900 billion dollar cap set by President Obama in his address to a joint session of Congress last month. But wait, there’s more good news. The Democrats’ version would also reduce the deficit in the first 10 years. The CBO report is due to drop Wednesday, and its ramifications could be far reaching. It gives House Speaker Nancy Pelosi much more ammunition in trying to get a bill with a strong public option through the House.

For reasons best known to themselves, so-called “blue dog” Democrats in the House have been arguing for the lame, government run insurance plan promoted by Republicans in both the House and Senate. Published reports say that plan won’t save as much as the one with the public option. So what will be their excuse now? Speaking of which, when will President Obama get behind the public option, for real?

We’ve said this before. Barack Obama says he favors reform with a public option. Yet he hasn’t put the full weight of his office behind it, and he lets some of his aides equivocate when asked about it. As the late Jim Morrison once opined, “The time for hesitation’s through. No time to wallow in the mire”. Let’s put this bluntly. If President Barack Obama wants to leave a lasting presidential legacy, this is it. Time to get off the dime, Mr. President. The numbers favor you, and those members of the House who have fought hard to provide adequate, affordable healthcare for all Americans.

Let the Rush Limbaughs, the Glenn Becks, the Sean Hannitys do their best. They can’t impugn the integrity of the CBO. They use numbers from the agency when it suits their purpose. Do they really want to cry socialist forever? There’s light at the end of the tunnel for the public option, but it’s not law yet. Those who favor it, and many have been doing yeoman work in their advocacy, need to raise their voices even louder.

And I’m not just talking about well known people. I’m talking about the folks who send healthcare messages in every Facebook post they make, the people who keep it alive on Twitter, the underground majority who get that this is a matter of national pride, and can’t be left to the loud, the selfish, the lawmakers whose votes are bought and paid for.

I, for one, am optimistic the public option will become law. How about you?

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Healthcare reform. Is Baucus Bill Bitter Pill?

Senator Max Baucus recently dropped his version of health care reform on the American people. Since then, progressives say it hasn’t gone far enough to make health care affordable to enough people, and conservatives say it costs too much money. With my feet planted firmly in the camp of the former, I have to say I’m not happy.

Any health care reform that doesn’t include a public option isn’t real reform as far as I’m concerned.

But that’s just me. Even without the option, which isn’t in Baucus’s bill, the question of whether it will make health insurance affordable to hard working, money strapped Americans remains. As we take a hard look at that, here are a few things to consider.

Max Baucus
Senator Max Baucus

The Baucus Bill would attempt to subsidize coverage for low and moderate income workers who aren’t covered by their employer. It would do this by creating exchanges, where workers could shop for rates that would vary by income. However, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that by 2016 (not that far off), a family of four earning $78,000 a year would be paying $15,300 a year for insurance, including premiums and deductibles.

That works out to $1275 bucks a month, or 20% of a family’s income. That means if that same family was paying 25% of their income for housing, either by mortgage or rent, nearly half their income would go to insurance and housing. Sound affordable to you? And this is what is being proposed as a cost effective alternative to a public option.

Something’s wrong here.

Yet the question is whether this bill is better than no bill at all. No less an expert than Paul Krugman writes in the New York Times that it may be a decent starting point.

Krugman favors single payer just like I do, but his column summarizes the collective dilemma of progressives. How bad is too bad? Krugman points out three big flaws in the Baucus plan, one of which is the bait and switch “exchange” plan in place of a public option.

Paul Krugman argues the Baucus plan can be fixed, if congressional progressives and the White House have the guts to make it happen.

Quite frankly, the Obama Administration has been sending mixed signals about whether they’ll back a plan with no public option. It’s time for the President to get off the dime and spend a little political capital. Health care reform that costs more than a thousand dollars a month for working people isn’t reform at all.

But you tell me. From what you know about the Baucus bill, can it be fixed to make health care affordable to most Americans?

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