Forget the OMB: the only legislative "scores" that really matter come from the Congressional Budget Office. Today, the non-partisan wonk office released its first, very preliminary analysis of the health care plan proposed by Sen. Ted Kennedy. 06-15-HealthChoicesAct.pdf
The good news: 39 million people would obtain health insurance coverage through the new health insurance gateways. But the plan, according to the CBO, would result in only a net gain of 16 million Americans adding insurance. That's because the CBO believes that the plan would kick about 15 million people out of the system because their employers would no longer offer insurance, and coverage from other sources would decline by 8 million. The plan would add a trillion dollars to the deficit over 10 years. An important caveat: the plan submitted to the CBO doesn't include expanded Medicare coverage guidelines and other measures that would serve as a safety net for those whose employers stopped offering health coverage. This version of the bill doesn't include a "public plan," and it does not include the so-called "pay or play" option for employers.
These preliminary analyses can be helpful or not. On the one hand, it gives the bill-writers a chance to make changes. On the other, it gives opponents handy numbers to cite when constructing an opposing point of view.
The CBO also engages in a bit of literary criticism:
In particular, the draft legislation includes a section on "individual responsibility" that would generally impose a financial cost on people who do not obtain insurance--but is silent about whether people are required to have such coverage. On the basis of our discussions with the committee staff, we understand that it was the committee's intent to impose a clear requirement for individuals to have health insurance, and this analysis reflects that intent. However, the current draft is not clear on this point, and if the language remains ambiguous, that would affect our estimate of its impact on federal costs and insurance coverage.
Bottom line: the Kennedy bill, when revised, will probably cover more people but also be more costly.
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is a contributing editor at The Atlantic
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