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CBO's Health Care Report Is Very Good News for Reform Advocates

No more excuses. This week, a variety of wavering House Democrats that they wouldn't make up their minds on health care reform until they got the final score on the package from the Congressional Budget Office. It took longer than expected, but the CBO has weighed in. Democrats looking for an encouraging score should be thrilled.
A Democratic source provides TPM with the CBO's final numbers on the health care reform bill -- the composite analysis of the Senate health care bill as amended by a soon-to-be-released reconciliation bill, which makes a number of amendments. The findings, as expected, keep the bill in line with the Senate bill's stand alone score: The bill would reduce the deficit by $130 billion in the first ten years, and potentially by $1.2 trillion in the second ten years (though CBO always warns that projections into the second decade are extremely unpredictable).
The legislation is fully paid for, reduces the deficit in this decade, and even more in the next decade. It will bring coverage to 32 million Americans -- slightly better than the earlier estimate -- and extend Medicare solvency by at least 9 years while closing the prescription drug "donut hole." Generally, when a report like this comes out, both parties find specific points to suggest that the score helps their side, not the other. But a report like this one should prove exceedingly difficult for Republicans to spin. If I had to guess, the GOP will talk up the overall price tag -- it's a 10-year, $940 billion package -- because it slightly exceeds the $900 billion ceiling originally talked about. But for anyone serious about the substance, condemning health care reform over a $4 billion-a-year difference is pretty silly. By any reasonable measure, this is a very strong CBO score, which should push some on-the-fence Democrats off the fence and into the "yes" column. No more "wait and see"; no more excuses. This is a reform package that works, and does exactly what these Democratic holdouts say they want. And with this, the clock starts on the final vote. If the leadership can get 216 votes together, House members will decide the fate of health care reform on Sunday morning -- 72 hours from now.