Sticker Shock Puts Health Care Reform Off to a Shaky Start
After the independent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) last week said that a draft health care bill by the Senate Finance Committee would cost $1.6 trillion, committee chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) delayed consideration of the bill most likely until after July 4 while members work to rein in the costs.
The delay casts doubts on whether the Senate will be able to clear a bill before the Congress adjourns for its August recess.
Meanwhile, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee last week began a markup session on its health care proposal that will extend into this week. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) has been temporarily chairing the panel for HELP Chairman Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), who is battling brain cancer and was unable to attend the sessions.
The CBO estimates that the HELP bill would cost $1 trillion and only cover 16 million more people, leaving 30 million in the U.S. without health insurance.
Republican members on the HELP Committee have complained that they have been left out of the process and that it makes no sense to consider the legislation at this time, since the partial draft omits some of the most costly and controversial sections of the bill. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) said that the bill’s price tag could easily reach $2 trillion.
Three House committees — Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means and Education and Labor — are expected to begin debate on a House Democratic health care plan this week.
The House still appears on track to approve its health care legislation by the end of July. However, delays are possible if conservative and centrist Democrats balk at the bill being written by House Democratic leaders.
Lawmakers in both chambers continue to explore a host of funding options, including a surtax on the rich, an increase in the payroll tax imposed on all U.S. workers, new taxes on sugary drinks and alcohol, a national value-added tax of up to 3%, new taxes on the health benefits that millions of workers receive through their employers, a change in the taxation of carried interest and a plan espoused by President Obama that would limit the value of all itemized deductions — including mortgage interest and real estate deductions — for higher-income taxpayers.
As details continue to unfold, NAHB will stand firm against employer mandates as well as changes to the current tax code that would impact the housing community.
For more information, e-mai Erin Tario at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8413.