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Statement of Robert Greenstein, Executive Director, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, on the New Senate Health Reform Bill
Date:11/19/2009

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is a statement by Robert Greenstein, Executive Director, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

The new Senate health bill marks a major step toward comprehensive, fiscally responsible health reform. It would extend health insurance coverage to 31 million Americans who lack it, reduce the budget deficit, and put long-term downward pressure on health care costs.

The bill would reduce deficits by an estimated $130 billion over the 2010-2019 period and by about one-quarter of one percent of GDP in the decade thereafter, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). This amounts to about $55 billion in 2020 and several hundred billion dollars over the 2020-2029 period. The bill also would likely slow the growth of health care costs over time by, for instance, imposing an excise tax on high-cost health insurance plans, reducing overpayments that private insurers receive through Medicare Advantage, and reducing the cost of prescription drugs in Medicaid.

Moreover, while the bill extends health coverage to 31 million more Americans, it keeps the total federal cost for all health care spending and tax subsidies in the decade after 2019 essentially where it would be under current law, according to CBO. That's because the bill finances its expanded health coverage by redirecting existing spending and tax subsidies from less productive uses elsewhere in the health sector.

All of this represents a stark and welcome change from the treatment of major tax and spending initiatives for nearly a decade. Congress enacted, for instance, the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and the Medicare prescription drug benefit without offsetting costs that totaled in the trillions of dollars. By contrast, the Senate health reform bill would expand coverage while reducing deficits over both the short and long term. (For more on the fiscal implications of the Senate bill,
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SOURCE Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
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