Could health care reform cost $1 trillion over 10 years AND leave tens of millions uninsured? — MedCity Morning Read, June 16, 2009

The Congressional Budget Office says one of the major plans on the table to fix health care cost $1 trillion over 10 years and still leave tens of millions of people uninsured. What to do?

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Barack Obama appealed to the bottom lines of doctors and the nation as he pitched health care reform to wary but receptive members of the American Medical Association on Monday.

But it looks like one of the major plans on the table to fix health care cost $1 trillion over 10 years and still leave tens of millions of people uninsured, or at least The New York Times thinks so.

Congress will spend the summer trying to figure out how to pay for health care reform. Lawmakers and the Obama administration both are considering tax increases and spending cuts to pay the bill. But congressional leaders are looking at different ways than Obama, the Times said.

For instance, House Democrats are looking at a tax on soft drinks and a value-added tax — a broad-based national sales tax. Obama wants to cut way back on Medicare and Medicaid spending to help pay for a government-backed health care plan for the uninsured.

But in a Monday report, the Congressional Budget Office said the Affordable Health Choices Act proposed by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions — which features the “insurance exchanges” Obama talked about on Monday – would cost the nation $1 trillion through 2019 and would reduce the number of uninsured by only 16 million (pdf).

Even if the bill became law, the nation would still have 36 million uninsured people, according to the Times.

In an opinion piece published in today’s Financial Times, Peter Orszag, head of President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget, reinforces the president’s viewpoint that health reform is a financial necessity in America.

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Meanwhile, public opinion on health reform is remarkably stable for all the discussion that’s going on in Washington and elsewhere, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. Sixty-one percent of Americans who responded to the poll believe health reform is more important than ever, given the nation’s economic problems.

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 [Photo credit: Capitol Hill by Flickr user Will Palmer]