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CBO Releases Baucus Bill Preliminary Score

5:03 PM, Oct 7, 2009 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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The bottom line seems to be it will cost $829 billion (paid for with taxes, penalties, and savings), will lower the projected deficit by $81 billion, and will leave 25 million uninsured (one third of those illegal immigrants).

The CBO letter cautions:

The Chairman's mark, as amended, has not yet been converted into legislative language. The review of such language could lead to significant changes in the estimates of the proposal's effects on the federal budget and insurance coverage.

Unfortunately, Democrats will never wait for a CBO score of the actual legislative language before enacting this behemoth-even waiting for a preliminary score before a committee vote was a lot to ask- so this early and rosier-than-others picture of the bill will mean points for Democrats.

Even so, people will inevitably wonder about the wisdom of overhauling a system-paid for with significant new taxes and penalties-to achieve a coverage number that pro-Obamacare commentators find pretty underwhelming. Moving forward, Obamacare proponents will want to push that number up by pulling in the more liberal (and more costly) provisions in the HELP bill, with which this bill must be merged. For instance, the public option, more strict mandates on employers, pushing subsidy eligibility higher (from 300-400 percent of poverty level), and allowing deadbeats 20-somethings to stay on their parents' insurance for longer.

Once those prices go up, so will the amount of taxes and penalties needed to pay for them. Here's what those costs look like now:

Those costs would be partly offset by receipts or savings, totaling $311 billion over the 10-year budget window, from four sources: net revenues from the excise tax on high-premium insurance plans, totaling $201 billion; penalty payments by uninsured individuals, which would amount to $4 billion; penalty payments by employers whose workers received subsidies via the exchanges, which would total $23 billion.

While we're at it, here are some other new taxes imposed by the legislation.

Roll it all up in a crust of good ol' government opacity, slathered in hidden back-room deals, back-slaps, and hand-shakes, without the input of the American people (Eww, who needs it? It's the trans fat of democracy!), and you've got a recipe for Obamacare.

Update: Phil Klein notes how Elmendorf's caveats may affect Snowe's vote in committee. She wanted to wait for legislative language.

"The American people are rightly entitled to see what we are legislating and we should not be afraid of having a better and more complete understanding of exactly what we are doing," Snowe said in a statement last month. "The fact is words matter and so do the numbers. This amendment represents a common sense, practical, pragmatic, good government approach to understanding the totality and the collective impact of what we do. We want to be sure that we are absolutely confident in the integrity of the product that we are going to be voting on in the final analysis."

Update: Tevi Troy has thoughts on CBO's letter, with this conclusion:

The Baucus people are probably happy that CBO gave them a score that didn't increase the deficit, but that doesn't change the fact that this remains a cumbersome and expensive way of getting at only about half (54%) of the problem of the uninsured.

He also notes a caveat I didn't:

The score is based in part on assumptions regarding Congressional behavior that CBO considers unrealistic, namely that doctor-reimbursement rates would be cut by 25% in 2011 and that subsequent increases would be held below the rate of inflation. This stands in contrast to all recent history in this area, as doctors have nearly always been successful at lobbying Congress to prevent significant rate cuts.