After CBO Analysis, White House Distances Self From Kennedy Bill


Kennedy who?

"This is not the Administration’s bill," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in a statement following the Congressional Budget Office's analysis of Sen. Ted Kennedy's health care reform legislation, "and it's not even the final Senate Committee bill."

Both statements are true, though it's not clear who, if anyone, had been saying that the legislation drafted by the powerful chairman of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pension Committee constituted President Obama's bill. Kennedy is but one of several legislators taking a crack and drafting legislation that will proceed through the legislative meat grinder and result in a bill that President Obama will sign. In reality, there is no actual "Administration" bill.

But certainly Kennedy's bill -- as well as those being drafted by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and by the leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the House Committee on Education and Labor -- are important parts of the process in the creation of the "Administration's bill."

Apparently responding to the CBO's numbers and the ensuing criticism of the Kennedy bill, Gibbs continued, saying "what is clear is what will happen if we let political posturing stand in the way of reform again: exploding deficits, lob loss, dwindling benefits, and millions more Americans joining the ranks of the uninsured. That's unacceptable, and that's why stakeholders from across the spectrum are joining with President Obama to enact health care reform that finally gets costs under control and expands coverage - without adding to our deficit."

Gibbs' reaction was the second from the White House in a matter of a few hours.

The first came from Linda Douglass, communications director in the White House Office of Health Reform, who said in a statement that "President Obama has been clear that health care reform is critical to our nation’s fiscal future. It is not true reform if it is not deficit neutral There are several bills being written in Congress and committees in the House and Senate are working through many proposals. There is no final bill, and this process has a long way to go. We have not seen the CBO report so cannot comment on it."

Why the pushback?

Because the CBO reported in a letter to Kennedy that his bill will cost $1 trillion over 10 years, adding only a net increase of 16 million Americans to the ranks of the insured -- leaving tens of millions uninsured (depending on how many Americans you think are uninsured).

And though President Obama repeatedly promises -- as recently as yesterday, when speaking to the AMA, for instance -- that if you like the doctor and the insurance you have you can keep them, CBO also estimates that millions of Americans would lose their current employer-provided health insurance.

The CBO director wrote in his blog that according to CBO's "preliminary assessment, enacting the proposal would result in a net increase in federal budget deficits of about $1.0 trillion over the 2010-2019 period. When fully implemented, about 39 million individuals would obtain coverage through the new insurance exchanges. At the same time, the number of people who had coverage through an employer would decline by about 15 million (or roughly 10 percent), and coverage from other sources would fall by about 8 million, so the net decrease in the number of people uninsured would be about 16 million or 17 million."

“Democrats keep saying that if you like the care you have you can keep it, but the facts about their bill don’t support that statement," Sen. Mike Enzi, the ranking Republican on the Senate HELP Committee. "CBO makes it clear – the Democrats’ plan will force millions of Americans to lose the care they have now. Anyone who says that if you like the care you have, you can keep it under this bill doesn’t have their facts straight.”

- jpt

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