WASHINGTON (CNN) - A health-care reform bill that includes a public insurance plan and requires employers to cover workers would cost $611 billion over 10 years, far less than previous estimates, according to a new analysis from Congress.
The figure is less than 40 percent of a June estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which did not include those provisions. Nearly all Americans could be covered by the bill, its leading Democratic supporters said in releasing a new CBO estimate Thursday.
"The completed bill virtually eliminates the dropping of currently covered employees from employer-sponsored health plans," Sens. Edward Kennedy and Chris Dodd said in a letter to members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, one of two panels working on the legislation.
"In addition, our bill, combined with the work being done by our colleagues in the Finance Committee, will dramatically reduce the number of uninsured - fully 97 percent of Americans will have coverage, a major achievement," they wrote.
The earlier CBO report put the cost of the less comprehensive bill at about $1.6 trillion over the same period. Supporters of a public plan, including President Barack Obama, have argued that a government-administered insurance program would keep down costs - and Obama said in a White House statement Thursday the latest bill reviewed "reflects many of the principles I've laid out."