Baucus to CBO: Give Us the Numbers We Want

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is supposed to function like an independent auditor, giving Congress objective estimates of the likely impact on expenses and revenues of proposed legislation. That makes all the more surprising this exchange at a recent hearing (as reported by Congress Daily):

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus laid the fate of universal health coverage at the feet of CBO Wednesday, much to the resistance of the new head of the congressional bean-counting agency. . . . . "CBO's work will make or break this enterprise," Baucus said at a Finance Committee hearing where CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf testified. "We need CBO to work with us to find a pathway to health reform". . . . "In my judgment, you're not God," the chairman said…..  Elmendorf turned the tables, telling Baucus, "The hard decisions will be yours."

Comments (7)

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  1. Larry C. says:

    Fascinating exchange.

  2. Bruce says:

    They are trying to throw the budget rules out the window. Federal debt is going to soar.

  3. Vicki says:

    John, as you pointed out at the Health Affairs blog and at this blog, there is a way to pay for rational health reform — it was in Sen. McCain’s proposal. And it didn’t require any new money.

    Unfortunately, McCain is no better at explaining his plan today than he was during the election.

  4. Bart says:

    Evidently not. I was never comfortable with McCain’s plan, and I’ve been complaining about the employer tax exemption off and on for close to 30 years. The best I could say was that it “appeared to be the more fixable of the two” (vs Obama’s).

    I still don’t see how you can replace the employer exclusion with an equal or larger tax credit, and then in addition create a new, massive Guaranteed Access Plan (GAP) to cover both current uninsurables and those whose employer group coverage would be displaced, without new money.

  5. John Goodman says:

    Well to be fair, McCain’s plan started out revenue neutral (just as Sen. Coburn’s plan is revenue neutral). But by the time the election was in full swing, it was no where near revenue neutral.

  6. Bart says:

    However it evolved, it would have been a tough sell. It doesn’t seem fair to blame McCain for not pushing it hard enough. His health care proposal should have helped carry him, not the other way around.

  7. Michael Major says:

    The last thing we need is more resources directed towards health care in this country. The problem we have is structural, not financial. We use the same model that is used by companies that warrant automobiles with “mechanical repair insurance.” It is obvious that that sort of insurance favors the creation of an adversarial relationship between the insurance company and the driver as well as powerful incentives for the insurance company to deny liability through whatever spurious or technical reasons it can come up with. The very same dynamics are created with the prepaid health care component of almost all private health insurance plans.