WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Barack Obama's opposition to taxing employer-provided health benefits has slowed progress on passing a health care reform bill, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee complained Thursday.
"Basically, the president is not helping us," said Sen. Max Baucus, D-Montana, after emerging from closed talks on the bill.
Baucus' criticism came on the same day the head of the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the health reform bills moving through Congress won't reduce long-term health care costs - in part because the bills don't include taxes on health benefits.
The comments by CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf provided ammunition for Republican opponents of the two Democratic-sponsored measures made public so far - one passed Wednesday by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and one proposed this week by House Democrats.
"I don't see any Republicans that have any interest in voting to ration care for their constituents, raise costs to their constituents, and put the federal government in charge of the best health care system in the world," said House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - The health reform bills released so far would increase government spending on health care without sufficiently reining in health care costs.
And at least initially they aren't likely to significantly lower premiums for the majority of Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance.
That's the sobering takeaway from testimony Thursday by Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf.
Elmendorf's preliminary conclusions were based on a bill jointly released by three committees in the House this week and another bill passed by the Senate health committee on Wednesday.
"The creation of a new subsidy for health insurance ... would by itself raise federal spending on health care. ... [T]o offset that there have to be substantial reductions (on the tax or spending sides of the ledger]," Elmendorf told the Senate Budget Committee. "The changes we've looked at so far don't represent the fundamental change on the order of magnitude that would be necessary."
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.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - The federal government is likely to spend $835 billion this year fighting the crises in the financial system and the economy, according to a new report by the Congressional Budget Office.
That spending represents about 6% of the nation's gross domestic product.
Of that amount, $340 billion is going toward the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which is being used primarily to bail out banks, insurers and the auto industry. Another $290 billion in 2009 outlays is being used to prop up mortgage giants Fannie Mae (FNM, Fortune 500) and Freddie Mac (FRE, Fortune 500).
In addition, $187 billion is being used for economic stimulus and relief efforts such as extended unemployment insurance.
As expensive as that seems, the CBO notes that "the current recession has little effect on long-term projections of non-interest spending and revenues."