Democrats battle to regain healthcare momentum
Obama launched a campaign on health reform Monday, but opposition is building on both sides of the aisle.
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Early on, the White House and Democratic leaders had hoped that a reform plan could squeeze waste out of the system and generate savings with reforms such as a shift to electronic medical records.Skip to next paragraph
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“I think the single most important thing is this proposal that we have for an independent commission to help bring down costs over the long term,” said White House Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orzag Sunday.
But the independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which scores the long-term cost of proposed legislation, isn’t buying it. Last week CBO director Douglas Elmendorf told the Senate Budget panel that neither the House nor Senate plans provided the “fundamental changes” needed to change the unsustainable rise in federal health spending.
“On the contrary, the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for federal healthcare costs,” he said. To close that gap, Congress has two big options, he added.
One is to add to the revenue side by changing the tax exclusion for employer health benefits and/or taxing wealthy families to pay for expansion of healthcare. A second option is to offset costs by cutting Medicare or Medicaid benefits.
Both involve significant political costs. On Monday, a leading House Democrat signaled that party leaders may be backing off plans to raise taxes on the wealthy to pay for health reform. Rep. James Clyburn, the House majority whip, said that the new tax may not be needed, if savings materialize, in an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
On Friday, Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina told conservatives in a conference call that if the GOP lost on healthcare, “we’ll probably have half of our economy in some way controlled by the federal government.” [Editor's note: The original version gave the wrong political affiliation for Senator DeMint.]
“If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him,” he said.
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