House health care bill costs more than previously believed

Chris Rizo Nov. 16, 2009, 7:27am

John Boehner (R-Ohio)

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-The mammoth $1 trillion health care overhaul bill passed by the House last week will cost more than previously believed, a government report said.

The landmark health care legislation pushed by Democrats narrowly cleared the House on a 220-215 vote, with the support of just one Republican and opposition from 39 Democrats.

The legislation seeks to fundamentally change the way U.S. health insurance companies do business without enacting any legal reforms, such as changing the nation's tort laws.

A report by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid said savings contained in the 2,000-page House proposal will be difficult to actualize.

The report also said under the bill total health expenditures would be about $289 billion higher in the next 10 years than would otherwise be spent by the government.

In a statement, House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio said the 31-page analysis by Richard Foster, the chief actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid "confirms" Republcian concerns about the bill.

"This report once again discredits Democrats' assertions that their $1.3 trillion government takeover of health care will lower costs, and it confirms that this bill violates President Obama's promise to 'bend the cost curve,'" he said. "It's now beyond dispute that their bill will raise costs, which is exactly what the American people don't want."

The House legislation would bar insurers from denying coverage and prohibit the insurance industry from charging higher premiums to consumers with a preexisting condition.

The bill also contains a public insurance option, which proponents say is aimed at injecting more competition into the health insurance marketplace. Under the legislation, the insurance industry would lose its exemption from federal antitrust restrictions on market allocation and price fixing.

"It is not inevitable that this plan becomes law," U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., said this week. "It is possible that we can get the Senate to step back."

The House bill contains 3,425 mandates woven into it, Lungren said.

The House-approved plan and the one that is expected to be passed in the Senate will be merged in conference committee before a final bill goes to President Barack Obama, who has made health care reform his No. 1 domestic priority.

The House plan would, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, extend insurance coverage to 36 million uninsured Americans and see to it that about 96 percent of Americans have medical coverage.

The bill was championed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,D-Calif, who said the legislation would protect Americans' health and "not add one dime to the deficit."

To pay for the coverage expansion, House plan calls for a 5.4 percent surtax on individuals making more than $500,000 a year or families earning more than $1 million and a 2.5 percent excise tax on medical services or devices.

House Republicans had sought a cap on punitive damages and narrowing the statute of limitations on malpractice claims as a way to cut health care costs. Democrats, which control the House, eschewed their plan.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is having trouble gathering the 60 votes needed to approve a health care plan.

If signed by Obama, the health care overhaul would mark the most significant expansion of medical care since Congress created Medicare in 1965 for the nation's elderly and disabled.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at

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