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CBO Estimates Senate Health Bill To Net Third Of Coverage Goal

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently released a preliminary analysis of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s draft health care reform bill, finding that the proposal would provide insurance coverage to 39 million people who were not previously insured.

The CBO estimated that the proposals in the bill would cost $1 trillion over 10 years, with almost all of that cost resulting from subsidies provided to help people obtain coverage.

While providing coverage to some of the uninsured, the CBO estimate says that while millions of the uninsured would gain insurance under the proposal, many others would change or lose their coverage, resulting in a net decrease in the number of uninsured Americans of 16 million – only one-third of the current goal.

The CBO estimate sparked more Republican criticism of the bill, with HELP Committee Ranking Member Sen. Michael Enzi (R-Wyo.) issuing a statement saying, “these early reports from CBO show that this bill will cost too much, cover too few, and cause too many people to lose the coverage they enjoy now.”

According to the estimate, 15 million people who get coverage through their employer would no longer do so, and an additional 8 million people covered by programs like Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) would move to new coverage options available from the bill. Despite a projected 6 percent decrease in the number of uninsured from 19 percent in 2010 to 13 percent in 2019, the bill would still leave 37 million Americans under the age of 65 uninsured.

The HELP bill would create a health insurance “exchange” for insurers to sell plans and people to purchase coverage.

The committee is still working on the bill, and other sections may add to the number of newly insured. The CBO also stressed that the whole bill was not scored, and the estimate also assumes that the bill will include a mandate for people to have coverage, a proposal not in the current draft.

The committee is expected to mark up the bill in the next few weeks.