WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate Finance Committee’s health bill would cost $829 billion and cut the deficit by $81 billion over 10 years, budget analysts said on Wednesday in a boost to President Barack Obama’s efforts to reform health care.
In a report that could help smooth the way for committee approval, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said the bill would reduce the number of uninsured people in the United States by about 29 million by the year 2019.
The cost was lower than many analysts had expected, and the estimated reduction in the deficit and relatively large number of people covered probably means the panel will not have to make more adjustments before a vote on final passage within the next week.
The proposal is one of five pending bills in Congress on reforming healthcare, Obama’s top domestic priority which Democrats hope to complete by the end of the year. The Finance Committee bill proposes reducing costs, regulating insurers and expanding coverage to the uninsured.
Republicans, concerned about the bill’s costs and potential impact on the budget deficit, had demanded the budget estimate before they cast a vote on the proposal to dramatically transform the $2.5 trillion healthcare system.
Panel Chairman Max Baucus praised the forecast and said it showed the bill was “a smart investment” that would expand coverage and improve healthcare for millions of American families.
“Our balanced approach to health reform has paid off yet again,” he said on the Senate floor.
On September 16, the CBO estimated the Baucus plan would cost $774 billion, shave $49 billion from the deficit over 10 years and add about 29 million people to the insurance rolls.
But even though other committee had added dozens of amendments during seven days of debate, the cost figure announced on Wednesday was still relatively low.
If the Democratic-controlled Finance Committee approves the measure as expected, it will be merged with a Senate health committee version and sent to the full Senate for debate in the next few weeks.
The healthcare revamp has been bogged down in Congress amid a raging debate over its size, cost and scope.
Reporting by John Whitesides; Editing by Eric Walsh