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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The CBO States the Obvious

The CBO chief still can't score the Baucus plan. It's changing far too much for that. Doug Elmendorf did however weigh in on the issue of benefit cuts to seniors under the Baucus plan.

Congress' chief budget officer is contradicting President Barack Obama's oft-stated claim that seniors wouldn't see their Medicare benefits cut under a health care overhaul.

The head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Douglas Elmendorf, told senators Tuesday that seniors in Medicare's managed care plans would see reduced benefits under a bill in the Finance Committee.

Now, in his speech two weeks ago, the President called any assertion that seniors would have their benefits cut under his plan a "lie". Technically, he could still be correct. After all, he still has no plan. So, the president could still find his way toward a plan that won't cut benefits for seniors. Of course, if he were to do that, he couldn't support anything near the Baucus plan.

Now, I don't want to take anything away from Mr. Elmendorf but his conclusions are rooted in basic logic. After all, the president wants to cover up to 50 million people currently without coverage. He won't increase doctors and he doesn't want to add to the deficit. Eight percent of all health care costs come in the last year of life. So, if 50 million more people are added to the pie but the pie remains just as large, then it isn't hard to figure out who will now get less of the new pie.

Once again, I would say that this latest news would kill health care reform except it's already dead. The Baucus plan will go nowhere. Harry Reid is threatening the nuclear option, passing health care reform under reconciliation. He'll soon be in for a rude awakening when he realizes that he won't have the votes to pass it that way either.

In fact, the president really has no choice but to start from scratch with a plan that actually has a chance of passing. If he continues along the path of the Baucus plan, he will continue to dig his own political grave. This isn't about ideology but numbers. The polling against it is overwhelming and he simply doesn't have the numbers in Congress to pass any bill that looks anything like the Baucus plan.

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