Partisan debate over the bill's price tag continued, despite support for the Bingaman language. “I don't know what the plan is in the Senate to pay for all of this,” given that the growth in the national deficit is unsustainable, said ranking member Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).
The Congressional Budget Office previously estimated the cost of the HELP bill at more than $600 billion, but new estimates indicate that expanding Medicaid coverage to include Americans with incomes below 150% of the poverty line would add another $500 billion in Medicaid liabilities between 2009 and 2019.
Republicans and Democrats on the panel disagree on whether the CBO figures on Medicaid should apply to the overall score of the HELP bill, otherwise known as the Affordable Health Choices Act.
Many of the questions on cost need to be addressed by the Finance Committee, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), who's chairing the panel in the absence of the ailing Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), told reporters. Dodd said he was pleased by the cost estimates the CBO provided to date on the HELP Committee's bill. “We should be celebrating our numbers, not bemoaning them,” he said.
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