Examiner Editorial: Budget Office analysis of Baucus bill raises flags

Obamacare advocates in the White House, Congress and the newsroom of The New York Times were elated this week when a Congressional Budget Office statement said the health care reform bill by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., would cut the federal deficit by $81 billion annually.

Hallelujahs ensued all around, including a Times headline proclaiming “Health care bill gets green light in cost analysis.” But two words in the CBO statement — “Preliminary Analysis” — demonstrate that such celebrations were not only premature, but fundamentally misleading.

CBO had to qualify its observations because it was not allowed to score the actual text of the Baucus bill but rather had to rely upon a legislative summary provided by Senate committee staff. So not only were CBO’s analysts forced to look at language that put the bill in the best possible light; they were also  denied the concrete details and precise legal wording that quite possibly could change their conclusions entirely.

Such “close enough for government work” analyses suffice for Baucus and the Times, but for everybody else, by labeling its assessment as preliminary, CBO was clearing waving yellow caution flags.

Reading further, other yellow flags were present in the CBO analysis. As The Examiner’s Susan Ferrechio has reported, enactment of the Baucus approach will add approximately $900 billion to the federal budget. That money will have to come from somewhere. Half of it will come from massive cuts in Medicare Advantage, while the other half will be generated by new taxes on high-end insurance, higher income taxes, and new levies on drugs and innovative medical devices.

There is another reason why the CBO’s preliminary analysis should be taken with a grain of salt, though this one wasn’t mentioned in the report. Whatever the content of the Baucus bill once it is voted out of the finance committee, it will disappear into a legislative black hole as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and their key aides do what they did on the economic stimulus package back in February — huddle together behind closed doors to write the final bill, which will then be presented as a fait accompli in the form of a conference report.

Everything else is mere sound and fury, signifying nothing, until Harry and Nancy do their thing in the dark.

editorialsOpinion

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

The City has struggled to conduct outreach in some neighborhoods as it works to expand Slow Streets — such as this section of Page Street in the Lower Haight — to underserved neighborhoods. <ins>(Jordi Molina/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
SFMTA delays vote on Bayview Slow Streets, approves five others in ‘underserved’ areas

SFMTA struggles to conduct outreach in neighborhoods with lower internet access

Stern Grove Festival organizers are planning to bring back the popular summer concert series — The Isley Brothers show in 2019 is pictured — with limited audience capacity. (Ming Vong/S.F. Examiner)
Indoor shows won’t be flooding SF stages soon but Stern Grove might be back in June

While San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that live performances may resume… Continue reading

San Francisco Giants pitcher Johnny Cueto  (47) started on Opening Day against the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park on April 9, 2021. (Photography by Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner).
Giants welcome fans back with strong performance by Cueto

By Ethan Kassel Special to S.F. Examiner ORACLE PARK — The first… Continue reading

James Harbor appears in court after he was arrested on charges in the July 4th shooting death of 6-year-old Jace Young on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Murder case heads to trial over killing of 6-year-old Jace Young

Hearing reveals new details in ‘horrific’ Fourth of July shooting

BART passengers may see more frequent service by this fall. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
BART service increases possible as soon as September

Proposal would double weekday, daytime trains and extend system operating hours

Most Read