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Will healthcare reform drive costs down? A little, report says.

A report released Monday by the Congressional Budget Office suggests that the Senate healthcare reform bill would have a modest effect on average Americans' pocketbooks. Critics say that's not enough to justify massive reforms.

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Consumer groups applauded the report as “great news for health reform supporters."

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“Interestingly, CBO does not analyze the impact of critical cost containment reforms already in the Senate bill,” said Larry McNeely, a spokesman for US Public Interest Research Group.

Payment reforms that reward quality and care coordination, preventative and primary care, and an independent Medicare commission "will be just beginning to have their impact in 2016, the year CBO chose to analyze. In the following years, these cost-saving provisions should drive down premiums even further," he said.

The report in detail

Among the conclusions of the report:

• For some 32 million Americans with non-group policies, premium costs would rise by an average of 10 percent to 13 percent if the Senate bill becomes law. But with government subsidies, more than half of this group would end up paying 56 percent to 59 percent less for their health insurance than they would have without reform.

• For those 134 million covered by large group insurance (from companies with more than 50 employees), premium costs could drop as much as 3 percent.

• For some 25 million expected to be covered by small group insurance, costs could increase up to 1 percent or decrease by 2 percent.

• Those facing a new 40 percent excise tax on high-premium plans – that is, over a threshold of $8,500 for single policies and $23,000 for
family policies – can expect employers to “respond to the tax by offering policies with premiums at or below the threshold,” the CBO report concluded. The CBO and Joint Committee on Taxation estimate that 19 percent of employment-based policies would have premiums that exceeded the threshold in 2016.

See also:

Senate healthcare reform debate begins: public option topic No. 1

The Monitor’s series on healthcare holdouts:
Ben Nelson says abortion funds mean ‘no’ vote

Mary Landrieu likes her $300 million

Blanche Lincoln wants to focus on jobs

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