Something for Everyone in the CBO’s Latest Health Reform Analysis
One report. Two very different interpretations.
The Congressional Budget Office stirred yet another hornet’s nest Monday when it released its latest analysis of the costs associated with the Democrats’ health care reform bill, with each side of the debate already leaning on the report to bolster its case. And the reason is simple: There’s something in there for everyone.
For critics of the reform legislation, the CBO found that the premium costs for enrollees in individual, non-group plans would rise between 10 and 13 percent, leaving GOP leaders to pounce on the legislation as failing to control health care costs. “A bill that’s being sold as a way to reduce costs actually drives them up,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement.
Yet the CBO also found that the insurance subsidies proposed under the bill would reduce the costs for nearly 60 percent of those enrollees to “well below the premiums that would be charged for such policies under current law.” That is, although the premium costs might rise, the financial burden on most patients would fall. Not surprisingly, Democrats are focusing on these savings in their own reaction to the findings.
The CBO report, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a statement, “strengthens our belief that the Senate reform proposal will bring security and stability to American families and will stem the tide of rising premiums.”
Of course there’s nothing new about the two parties disagreeing over a piece of legislation, nor is it rare to see lawmakers cherry-picking from reports to present their side in the brightest light. If there’s any message here, it’s that the health reform debate, like so many on Capitol Hill, is full of nuance, allowing every bit of new analysis to be spun in wildly different directions.
That being said, the new CBO report makes it clear that the central question of this debate remains unchanged: Should higher-income Americans shoulder some of the burden of allowing their lower-income peers to buy comprehensive health insurance? On that one, the sides have largely solidified an agreement to disagree.