As I mentioned earlier today, the past week or so has given health reformers a severe case of whiplash. First, an early version of the Senate HELP committee bill was unveiled in an uncompleted form, after divisions between the committee's Republicans and Democrats on key issues like the public option, and the employer mandate couldn't be resolved in time for hearings. Unfortunately, that's the only legislation the Congressional Budget Office had to work with, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, they found it would cost about $1 trillion over 10 years while leaving, dozens of millions of people uninsured.
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And this, remember, is the committee that's putting together a liberal bill, without worrying too much about rapprochement or bipartisan compromise. All of that bellyaching was going on in the Senate Finance Committee. The CBO determined that that bill would cost about $1.6 trillion over 10 years--significantly more than the conservative committee wanted to pay. And they've gone about making up the difference not by upping the ante on cost-cutting reform efforts, but by slashing the very benefits and subsidies reformers are fighting for--including the public option which has been scrapped, in the Finance bill, and replaced with a plan to create regional, non-profit co-operatives (more on that in a bit).
Hearings on that bill won't begin until next month, leaving Congress only days of session to complete the entire legislative process before their ambitious pre-August recess deadline.
But the story in the House is much different.