The Associated Press: Budget umpire: Health care bills would raise costs

WASHINGTON Democrats' health care bills won't meet President Barack Obama's goal of slowing the ruinous rise of medical costs, Congress' budget umpire warned on Thursday, giving weight to critics who say the legislation could break the bank.

The sobering assessment from Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf came as House Democrats pushed to pass a partisan bill through committees, while in the Senate a small group of lawmakers continued to seek a deal that could win support from both political parties.


From the beginning of the health care debate, Obama has insisted that any overhaul must "bend the curve" of rapidly rising costs that threaten to swamp the budgets of government, businesses and families.

Asked by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., if the evolving legislation would bend the cost curve, the budget director responded that as things stand now "the curve is being raised."

Explained Elmendorf: "In the legislation that has been reported, we do not see the sort of fundamental changes that would be necessary to reduce the trajectory of federal health spending by a significant amount. And on the contrary, the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health care costs."

Even if the legislation doesn't add to the federal deficit over the next years, Elmendorf said costs over the long run would keep rising at an unsustainable pace.

Part of the reason is that Obama and most Democrats have refused to accept a tax on high-cost health insurance plans as part of the overhaul. There's wide agreement among economists that such a tax would give businesses and individuals an incentive to become thriftier consumers of health care. Finance Chairman Baucus said Thursday that Obama's position isn't helping matters.
Remember, this is the Democratic head of the CBO.

If this proposal won't reduce costs, I don't see why it should be considered.