The House Democrats' health care plan would cover 36 million more Americans at a cost of $1.055 trillion over the next decade, while slashing the federal deficit overall by $104 billion, according to a preliminary Congressional Budget Office score released late Thursday.
The cost of the bill was a concern to fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats, who sent a letter to the CBO asking additional questions about their estimates and what additional measures could be taken to reduce the overall spending on health care.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had touted the bill as costing $894 billion when she released it online earlier in the day, but that number nets out $167 billion in new pay-or-play taxes on individuals and businesses. Pelosi's office had also said the bill would cut the deficit by $30 billion, but the CBO score came in much better.
The $1.055 trillion cost is offset by $740 billion in new taxes and revenue and a net $426 billion in cuts in spending, largely in Medicare.
The CBO also estimated that the deficit would continue to shrink slightly in the second decade after the bill is adopted, a key issue for many moderate Democrats, although it said that any estimates that far out have considerable uncertainty.
That $1.055 trillion figure only includes the coverage portions of the bill, down from about $1.2 trillion in the original bill.
Other pieces, including the cost of closing the donut hole in the bill for seniors under Medicare, come on top of those figures.
The bill also excludes an estimated $245 billion in costs for preventing a 21 percent cut to doctors pay under Medicare. Democrats dropped that provision from the bill and plan to move it separately so that they can say the larger bill does not add to the deficit.
Blue Dog Co-Chairman Jim Matheson (Utah) said that Blue Dogs want answers from the CBO on what additional measures could be added to the bill to bring down long-term costs.
They are also concerned about the inclusion of a new long-term care insurance plan included in the bill. That provision, known as the CLASS act, would net the federal government tens of billions in the earlier years but eventually increase the federal deficit as beneficiaries age.
Its a brand new entitlement program, Matheson said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.