US Budget Watch Releases Paper Comparing Health Care Reform Plans

Today, US Budget Watch released a new paper, Comparing Health Care Plans: A Guide to Health Care Reform Proposals, highlighting the ten-year costs and savings of the major provisions from three of the reform bills. Several health care bills have been proposed in Congress over the past few months, but the report focuses on the Senate HELP Committee bill, the Senate Finance Committee bill, and the House Tri-Committee bill.

The three bills seek to address the goals of expanding coverage, improving quality, and reducing costs, which are very often in conflict. Overall, the paper finds that, in its current form, the Senate HELP Committee would add between $611 and $1,111 billion to the deficit over the next ten years—without accounting for an expected $500 billion from expanding Medicaid and any other offsets. The House Tri-Committee bill would add only $239 billion over ten years, while the Senate Finance bill would actually decrease ten-year deficits by $49 billion. The costs and savings under the Senate HELP Committee cannot currently be meaningfully compared to the other two bills, as savings from Medicaid and other offsets are under the jurisdiction of the Senate Finance Committee and not the HELP Committee.

The bills are similar in that they expand coverage, create health insurance exchanges, provide subsidies for lower-income individuals, expand Medicaid, and include savings from Medicare, Medicaid, and new taxes. However, each bill has a distinct overall cost because of different sized subsidies, taxes, and penalties.

The report states that:

“To meet the test of fiscally responsible reform, a plan must go beyond simply offsetting the costs. Because health care is the leading driver of massive, long-term deficits facing the country, reform must also significantly slow the growth of government spending on health care.”

CRFB argues that both short-term and long-term costs must be the focus of any health care reform legislation as negotiations between and within Congress and the Administration continue.