CBO: Finance Panel's Health Bill Pricetag Is $829 Billion Over 10 Years; Provides Coverage To 91% Of U.S. Residents

New cost estimates for the Senate Finance Health Overhaul were released this afternoon, clearing the way for a vote on the measure in the days ahead.

The Wall Street Journal: "The latest health-overhaul bill from the Senate will cost $829 billion over a decade and provide insurance coverage to 91% of U.S. residents, according to an analysis released Wednesday by the Congressional Budget Office." The measure's price tag is consistent with President Obama's request that the health overhaul "cost about $900 billion over a decade and not add to the federal deficit. But the estimate of how far it will expand insurance coverage is lower than what Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.) had initially targeted." The CBO estimates that the bill would reduce the federal budget deficit by $81 billion over 10 years (Adamy, 10/7).

The Washington Post: The measure drafted by the Senate Finance Committee "would expand health coverage to nearly 30 million Americans who currently lack insurance and would meet President Obama's goal of reducing the federal budget deficit by 2019." The cost of the measure is offset by "slicing hundreds of billions from government health programs such as Medicare and by imposing a 40 percent excise tax on high-cost insurance policies starting in 2013." Finance panel members have been anxiously awaiting the CBO's assessment as they prepare for a final vote (Montgomery and Murray, 10/7).

The Associated Press: "The Congressional Budget Office also projects that the latest version of the Finance bill would cover 94 percent of Americans, excluding illegal immigrants. ... The bill would be fully paid for through a mix of spending cuts and tax increases" (10/7).

The New York Times: Baucus almost immediately went to speak on the Senate floor. "The report, I think, is quite promising," Mr. Baucus said, according to The Times. "The report is good news. Our balanced approach in the Finance Committee to health reform, I think, has paid off once again. Today the Congressional Budget Office confirmed that the American's Health Future Act -– that is the legislation in the Finance Committee -– remains fully paid-for and reduces the deficit by $81 billion in the first 10 years." But in a letter to Baucus that contained the cost estimated, CBO Director Douglas W. Elmendorf "included a number of 'important caveats' including a warning that the bill 'has not yet been converted into legislative language. The review of such language could lead to significant changes in the estimates of the proposal’s effects on the federal budget and insurance coverage'" (Herszenhorn and Pear, 10/7).

Los Angeles Times: "The estimate sets the stage for the finance panel to vote on the proposal later this week or next week, a key step in the Democratic campaign to send President Obama a healthcare overhaul bill by the end of the year. Once the finance committee votes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will combine the panel's legislation with a slightly different bill developed by the Senate Health Committee" (Levey, 10/8).

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