Healthcare Reform Inches Forward

| Wed Oct. 7, 2009 4:42 PM EDT

Attention nerds: the Congressional Budget Office has released its preliminary assessment of the healthcare bill passed out of the Senate Finance Committee last week.  Basically, the news is good: it pays for itself over ten years, it pays for itself over 20 years, it covers 94% of the population, and it reduces Medicare spending by over $400 billion:

According to CBO and JCT’s assessment, enacting the Chairman’s mark, as amended, would result in a net reduction in federal budget deficits of $81 billion over the 2010–2019 period....CBO expects that the proposal, if enacted, would reduce federal budget deficits over the ensuing decade relative to those projected under current law — with a total effect during that decade that is in a broad range between one-quarter percent and one-half percent of GDP.

....By 2019, CBO and JCT estimate, the number of nonelderly people who are uninsured would be reduced by about 29 million....Under the proposal, the share of legal nonelderly residents with insurance coverage would rise from about 83 percent currently to about 94 percent.

....Other components of the proposal would alter spending under Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, and other federal health programs....In total, CBO estimates that enacting those provisions would reduce direct spending by $404 billion over the 2010–2019 period.

There are still plenty of battles to be fought, including those over subsidy levels and the public option, but we basically have on the table a plan that's budget neutral (or better), covers most of the population, saves a considerable amount of money, and ought to be roughly acceptable even to the most timorous of the centrists.  That's more than anyone's ever managed to do before.  And remember: it took most European countries decades before they had more than 94% of their population covered, but they all got there eventually once they had a starting place.  There's plenty left to do, but as a starting place this isn't too bad.