Baucus: New CBO Score ‘Good News’

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said Wednesday that a preliminary Congressional Budget Office score of his panel’s draft health care overhaul package would cost under $900 billion over the next decade and provide health coverage to 95 percent of uninsured Americans.

Baucus also told reporters that the analysis shows that the plan would actually reduce the deficit in the tenth year by several billion dollars. While several policy decisions were not included in the analysis, Baucus described the report as “good news” and said the projected coverage is acceptable and “more than we have today.”

Baucus has been meeting with a bipartisan group of Finance members to find consensus on a health care package with hopes of the panel concluding its deliberations before the chamber breaks for its month-long August recess. While some media reports have said the bipartisan group is close to a deal, a Republican participating in those talks said Wednesday that several issues remain unresolved.

“No deal is at hand and substantive issues, big and small, remain under discussion and need to be resolved,” Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said in a statement. Enzi also said that he needed to see complete legislative language and a final CBO estimate of the cost of the bill as well as assurances from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., that a bipartisan Finance agreement “will survive in a final bill that goes to the president.”

Another participant in the bipartisan discussions, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., called the CBO score “extremely good news. It shows we’re being effective at containing costs, that we’re insuring 95 percent of Americans and that we’re headed in the right direction.” Conrad is also chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

Meanwhile, Politico is reporting that the Senate Finance Committee’s staff director wrote in an e-mail this morning that “significant policy issues remain to be discussed among the Members, and any one of these issues could preclude bipartisan agreement.”