Members of the Senate Finance Committee sought to trim more than $500 billion on a still-incomplete bill that would overhaul the U.S. healthcare system. The move comes after the Congressional Budget Office put a price tag of about $1.65 trillion on an earlier version of legislative text, according to several sources.
But a Democratic aide on the Senate Finance Committee said the bill would ultimately cost less than $1 trillion and would be fully paid for. Talking to reporters on June 16, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) played down the amount, saying the figure was based on an outdated version of the bill. He said a newer version would likely have a lower figure. Meantime, senators are changing their minds on various policies, Baucus said. And thats got to go back and get re-scored at CBO. That takes time.
One of those provisions centers on the amount of federal subsidies that would be used to help transition individuals and families into a health insurance exchange. On June 15, the CBO released a partial assessment on legislation from a separate Senate panel that showed offering subsidies for those with incomes of up to 500% of the federal poverty level could spur mass movement from employer-sponsored health plans to the exchange. Such a move would account for the lions share of the $1 trillion price tag it put on the bill.
Thats a major driver here, too, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said. Theres got to be a stronger firewall, so there are discussions with CBO on how to address that.
A report by the Associated Press said that the Senate Finance bill included subsidies up to 400% of federal poverty level, but that it would likely be lowered in an effort to tamp down costs. Baucus said he aims to release the bill later this week.
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