Where’s the money for health reform?

If there ever was a time to remind health journalists to follow the money, it’s now.

President Obama is back in campaign mode, barnstorming the country to win support for health-care reform. The details and fate of the overhaul remain uncertain, but it’s clear any steps toward universal coverage will mean big bucks — at least $1 trillion over 10 years.

How to pay the bill without increasing the federal deficit, as Obama has pledged? A combination of tax hikes and cost cuts.

Team Obama is already planning for reductions in payments to hospitals, private insurers and drugmakers. For more details, see the video below and the White House blog’s post on Obama’s weekly radio address.

But the real action is looming over how to get more cash into the health system. A federal tax on employer-sponsored health benefits, opposed by Obama during his run for president, is under serious consideration in the Senate, the Washington Post reports.

That approach, supported by some economists as a way to manage health costs, could be political suicide. “Taxing benefits would be a disaster,” Democratic pollster Celinda Lake tells the Post. “You have no idea how strongly this is going to backfire if we do it.”

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