Health care bill’s costs rising, analysts say

Business groups call it misguided

Associated Press / November 3, 2009

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WASHINGTON - The health care bill headed for a vote in the House this week would cost $1.2 trillion or more over a decade, according to numerous Democratic officials and figures contained in an analysis by congressional budget analysts, far higher than the $900 billion cited by President Obama as a price tag for his reform plan.

While the Congressional Budget Office has put the cost of expanding coverage in the legislation at roughly $1 trillion, Democrats added billions more for public health, a reinsurance program to hold down retiree health costs, payments for preventive services, and more.

Many of the additions are designed to improve benefits or ease access to coverage in government programs. Yet, even with the new help that Democrats want to provide, the CBO said yesterday that some middle-class families would still face a big budget hit for health care.

A family of four making $66,000 a year could face a total health care bill of $10,000 - the total of premiums, copayments, and deductibles, even after $10,500 in government assistance, the budget analysts said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has referred repeatedly to the bill’s net cost of $894 billion over a decade for coverage. Republicans put the cost of the bill at nearly $1.3 trillion.

“Our goal is to make it as difficult as possible for’’ Democrats to pass it, House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said at a news conference. “We believe it is the wrong prescription.’’

But one day after announcing Republicans would have an alternative measure, Boehner offered few details. He said it would omit one of the central provisions in Democratic bills - a ban on the insurance industry’s practice of denying coverage on the basis of preexisting medical conditions. Instead, he said the Republicans would encourage creation of insurance pools for high-risk individuals and take other steps to ease their access to coverage.

As the GOP continued its assault on the Democratic bill, a Republican congresswoman from North Carolina even asserted yesterday that Americans have more to fear from the legislation than from terrorists.

“I believe that the greatest fear that we all should have . . . to our freedom comes from this room, this very room, and what may happen later this week in terms of a tax increase bill masquerading as a health care bill,’’ Representative Virginia Foxx said on the House floor. “I believe we have more to fear from the potential of that bill passing than we do from any terrorist right now in any country.’’

Also last evening, 11 of the nation’s largest business groups, including the National Federation of Independent Business and the US Chamber of Commerce, launched a multimillion-dollar TV ad campaign on national cable TV and in 19 states. The ad says the House legislation would raise taxes and worsen the economy without curbing medical expenses.