After just glancing through the just-released CBO report [pdf] on the Baucus bill, I can only say that more than ever I believe adopting Wyden’s Free Choice Proposal [pdf] is a necessary move – more necessary in containing costs and providing adequate insurance than the public option, I’d say. It really empowers the exchanges and creates much less neutered insurance for private buyers.
Also, while this bill is nominally something conservatives should welcome with open arms – it doesn’t kill the status quo and it actually saves the government $81 billion dollars between now and 2019 – I know they won’t. For some conservatives, with a real concern for these things, the bill won’t go far enough to dismantle the status quo and bring about market reforms. For the current GOP leadership and the talking heads, anything that Democrats do these days, no matter how crippled, is tantamount to socialism. It almost makes you wonder why they didn’t just make a piece of real progressive legislation and then jam it through, and take hits where they need to. You know, barter. Go big and then work your way down. If you start with such a feckless, unambitious bill, what are you likely to end up with once all is said and done?
Beyond that, it won’t cover all the uninsured. The CBO estimates 29 million people currently uninsured will gain coverage under the new law. That’s not bad, but it’s not great either.
The good news, substantively and politically, is that CBO expects the measure would reduce budget deficits by $81 billion over the next decade and by even larger sums in the following decade. (It won’t say exactly how much it expects the bill to reduce deficits over the following decades, given that it’s hard to be specific with such long-range estimates.)
The coverage news is not quite so good–although, to be honest, it’s better than I expected, given the rumors running around today. CBO estimates that, as of 2019, 94 percent of legal non-elderly residents and 91 percent of all non-elderly residents would have insurance.
That’s significantly lower than the projections from the House bill, which would result in corresponding figures of 97 percent and 94 percent. In raw numbers, it’s the difference between 25 million people (Senate Finance bill) and 17 million (House bills) still uninsured ten years from now.