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Dems Reveal Little About Health Reform Changes

House Democratic leaders just ended a much-anticipated press conference to unveil the details of their health care reform bill. Trouble was, the details were few and far between.

Rather than lending many specifics about the changes to the Senate bill, party leaders stuck with talking points about the general need for reform, as well as playing up the new CBO analysis, released today, estimating that the reform proposals would save $138 billion over the next decade and more than $1 trillion in the following decade.

That being said, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) did reveal a few things about the reconciliation bill. The notables:

  • The $940 billion cost of the bill will be offset largely by cutting costs within the current health care delivery system — the “waste, fraud and abuse” we hear so much about. CBO estimates that more than $500 billion will come from such cuts, most of which will target Medicare programs (particularly Medicare Advantage, under which private insurers tap generous federal subsidies to insure seniors.)
  • The other large offset provisions are (a) an excise tax on expensive health insurance plans — though that provision likely won’t go into effect for years to come — and (b) “a Medicare fee on unearned income,” something like the high-earner tax the House had passed last year.
  • The sweetheart Medicaid deal for Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D) Nebraska has been eliminated, though Pelosi ducked questions about whether other, similar state-based deals have also been scrapped.
  • Consistent with the original House bill (but not included in the Senate proposal), Medicaid payments to primary care physicians will increase under the reconciliation package, Pelosi said.

Pelosi also said vaguely that the reconciliation bill will offer more affordability for the middle class than the Senate bill did, while also taking further steps to reform the private insurance industry. Pushed for more details, Pelosi said, “Go to the Internet,” where a summary is expected to go up shortly.

Waiting now for those specifics.

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