Health reform scrapes by on $1 trillion

About Scott Hensley

Scott Hensley runs NPR's online health channel, Shots. Previously he was the founding editor of The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog and covered the drug industry and the Human Genome Project for the Journal. Hensley serves on AHCJ's board of directors. You can follow him at @ScottHensley.

You might think that more than $1 trillion, even when spread over 10 years, would be enough to cure all manner of problems in health care.

U.S. Capitol
Image by BlankBlankBlank via Flickr

But USA Today’s Susan Page reports the “eye-popping price tag” that’s the budgetary line in the sand for proposals kicking around Capitol Hill right now won’t come close to fulfilling every reformer’s wish.

Most of the money would go to expanding coverage for the uninsured. But a House bill wouldn’t subsidize coverage for as many families as previously expected and would jack up Medicaid costs for states, USA Today reports. A decade from now 15 million to 20 million people would probably still be uninsured.

All right. But we’re still wondering where all that cash, limited as it now seems to be, is going to come from? Medicare savings are supposed to provide a big wad. And then there’s a proposal from House Democrats to soak the rich, which the Washington Post explains, would slap a surtax on families earning more than $350,000 a year and individuals pulling down more than $280,000.

None of the scenarios matter if nothing becomes law. The White House appears intent on pushing ahead, despite growing Republican opposition. David Axelrod, Obama’s top political strategist, told Bloomberg, that a bipartisan approach would be nice but not absolutely necessary. “We’d like to do it with the votes of members of both parties,” he said. “But the worst result would be to not get health-care reform done.”

Update

Health reform marched ahead on a Senate health committee vote along party lines that approved legislation to expand health coverage. In a statement, President Obama said, the milestone “should provide the urgency for both the House and Senate to finish their critical work on health reform before the August recess.”

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