KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Democrats To Push Unscored Benefits To Counter Latest CBO Analysis

Democrats are planning to push the point this week that health care reform, with a price tag of up to $1.6 trillion, has benefits and cost savings that aren't scored by the Congressional Budget Office, The Hill reports.

"Democrats are going to seek to convince skeptics that the healthcare overhaul has other provisions, such as prevention and wellness measures, that will provide benefits and save money, a House leadership aide told The Hill on Sunday." On Saturday, the CBO and director Doug Elmendorf issued a cost report concluding that if an independent Medicare panel set costs, only $2 billion would be saved over 10 years.

"Meanwhile, White House budget director Peter Orszag on Saturday criticized the CBO and suggested he was puzzled by the methodology the CBO used to estimate cost savings from a proposed Independent Medicare Advisory Council (IMAC)" (Tiron, 7/26).

Politico: "The proposal's meager savings are a blow to Democrats working furiously to bring down costs in order to win support from Blue Dogs, who have threatened to vote against the bill without significant changes." Republicans jumped on CBO's latest numbers. "'The President said that rising health care costs are an imminent threat to our economy and that any reform must reduce these long-term costs. But CBO has made clear once again that the Democrats' bills in Congress aren't reducing costs and in fact could just make the problem worse,' said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell" (Frates, 7/25).

NPR reports on disagreements over Obama's plan to "to create an independent commission to force Congress to vote on pay increases or cuts to doctors, hospitals and other providers in the Medicare program. Administration officials say such a commission would be a strong start toward starting to control health care costs, despite a less-then-enthusiastic review from the Congressional Budget Office over the weekend. It would, wrote White House Budget Director Peter Orszag, 'represent a critical step forward in creating a health care system that rewards quality, restrains unnecessary costs, and provides better care to more Americans.' In fact, such a commission already exists. It's called the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, or MedPAC," but "Congress routinely ignores MedPAC's recommendations." So far, the Blue Dogs support the proposal. "But what warms the blue dogs' hearts is sending chills through some groups that have already endorsed the House bill, particularly health care provider groups like the American Hospital Association" (Rovner, 7/27).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.