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March 18, 2010 Thursday 5:19 PM EST
SECTION: NEWS & COMMENTARY; Economy and Politics
LENGTH: 583 words
HEADLINE: Health bill savings touted as historic vote nears
BYLINE: Robert Schroeder, MarketWatch mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Robert Schroeder is a reporter for MarketWatch in Washington. MarketWatch’s L.A. bureau chief Russ Britt contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — President Barack Obama and top House Democrats touted billions of dollars in savings expected from the House health-care bill on Thursday, as the president again postponed a foreign trip to witness an historic vote on his No. 1 policy issue.
A Congressional Budget Office analysis released Thursday showed that the House’s bill will save $138 billion over 10 years, and Obama said it would reduce the deficit by $1.3 trillion over two decades.
“That makes this legislation the most significant effort to reduce deficits since the Balanced Budget Act in the 1990s,” Obama told reporters in the Rose Garden. “I urge every member of Congress to consider this as they prepare for their important vote this weekend.”
A vote in the House is expected Sunday afternoon.
The final House version of the bill will cost $940 billion over a decade, while saving $138 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Republicans vow attack
House Republicans vowed to try to stop the bill.
“They’re still going to spend a trillion dollars so we impose government-run health care on the American people,” said House Republican Leader John Boehner.
Republican members of the Senate Finance Committee fired their own salvo, calling the CBO’s and Democrats’ math into question on savings over the next two decades. In a written statement, GOP committee members said Democrats incorporated incorrect savings assumptions when devising their figures.
In essence, the legislation would actually add to the deficit by $582 billion over the next 10 years and $1.6 trillion in the following decade. Read the GOP Senate Budget committee statement.
“Boiling down the budgetary effect of this massive bill into just one number, as the Democrats do, is a misleading exercise,” the statement says.
Showdown on the Hill
The CBO figures set the stage for a vote on the bill Sunday, one of the last steps in a yearlong drive by Obama to enact health-care reform.
The legislation broadly aims to cover about 31 million uninsured Americans, reduce health-care costs, require most Americans to have insurance and stop insurance company practices like denying coverage to the sick.
The final House bill doesn’t include a government agency with the power to roll back excessive insurance premium hikes, an authority Obama had sought in the wake of planned premium increases of 39% or more by Anthem Blue Cross of California.
It reduces the deficit by taxing high-end “Cadillac” health plans, extending the Medicare payroll tax to unearned income for couples earning more than $250,000, and cutting payments to the Medicare Advantage program, among other things.
The cost figures are critical to winning support from fiscally conservative Democrats, whose reservations about the bill have forced the White House and Democratic leaders to work overtime to win votes. In the House, 216 votes are needed for passage.
“The president still believes we will have the votes,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday afternoon.
Late Thursday, Rep. Bart Gordon of Tennessee, one of the 39 House Democrats who voted no on the House’s health-care bill late last year, said he’d vote yes for the final package.
Obama put off until June a scheduled trip to Indonesia, in order to be in Washington for the House’s vote, Gibbs said. Obama was scheduled to leave Sunday for Indonesia and Australia.
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