The much-awaited Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Senate Finance Committee’s version of health reform legislation is in, and the initial reports are reasonably positive. CBO says the amended Baucus bill would actually reduce federal budget deficits by a cool $81 billion over the next decade, and far more in later years. It would also cover 94 percent of legal non-elderly Americans. Since the Senate Finance bill is generally considered the most conservative contributor to the ultimate reform legislation, that’s not bad.
But as Ezra Klein ponts out, the Finance Bill reinforces a focus on the uninsured that sells genuine health care reform short:
This bill will change the insurance situation for 37 million legal residents, 29 million of whom would otherwise be uninsured. That’s a big step in the right direction. But most people will never notice it. When I got an early glimpse of the Senate Finance Committee’s bill back in June, I called it “comprehensive incrementalism,” and I stick by that label. It makes a lot of things a bit better, but it’s not root-and-branch reform.
The Obama administration’s decision to avoid disruption of existing health insurance arrangements, reinforced massively by Republican claims that reform would denude seniors of existing coverage, made this outcome unavoidable. Health care reform will be just that: a reform, but not a revolution in the U.S. heath care system.