Democrats in the administration and Congress have agreed on a set of amendments to the Senate health care bill. And, according to House leadership, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is certifying that the amendments will reduce the deficit. That should fulfill the parliamentary requirements of the reconciliation process, satisfy the demands of many nervous Democrats, and clear the way for the House to vote on health care reform.
Overall, according to leadership aides, the underlying Senate health care bill plus the amendments will reduce the deficit by $130 billion in the first ten years and $1.2 trillion in the second ten years. Democrats are calling it the "biggest deficit reduction measure in 25 years"--that is, since the 1993 Clinton budget.
This news should ease the anxiety of reform critics, both in Congress and beyond, who worry that health care reform will bankrupt the government or the country. CBO projections are not an exact science, but they're as reliable as anything we have. If anything, their projections err on the side of excessive caution.
Of course, the big question is how the bill achieves that bottom line. In other words, how did the Democrats change regulations and subsidy levels in order to produce those savings? More on that soon...