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Re: Wheels off the Bus

A health-care bill by August, says the president. But what health-care bill? So far there is no consensus:

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) suggested Thursday evening that Congress should steer clear of the health care reform bill being marked up in the House as well as the legislation approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Wednesday.

Conrad, working to negotiate a bipartisan deal on health care reform in the Finance Committee, cited testimony earlier today by Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf in which he told members of the Budget Committee that the House and HELP bills will actually increase health care costs. Conrad said that outcome is unacceptable.

“Everybody has said you’ve got to bend the cost curve in the right way,” Conrad told reporters on his way into Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ (D-Mont.) office to resume negotiations.

“The director of CBO said in very clear testimony, in response to my questions … [that] the other proposals bend the cost curve the wrong way — will increase costs.”

And that really is the issue. If we are going to increase costs and the deficit, not reduce them, then moderate Democrats (not to mention Republicans) who can read the polls and understand the public’s antipathy to the spend-a-thon and debt accumulation, will have little reason to vote for the bill.

So where is the “deal”? Not at all clear. But as we pass the trillion dollar deficit mark and unemployment heads upward I suspect it will get harder to sell the Obama-Pelosi trillion dollar health-care bill.


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