CBO says Obama's health plan not detailed enough to score

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said Monday that it cannot score President Barack Obama's health reform proposal because it lacks enough detail.

The White House claims that the president's proposal will reduce the budget deficit by $100 billion over the next 10 years and by about $1 trillion over the second decade by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse and cutting "government overspending."

But the CBO said it is not able to verify those claims. Here is more from the CBO's Director's Blog:

Although the proposal reflects many elements that were included in the health care bills passed by the House and the Senate last year, it modifies many of those elements and also includes new ones. Moreover, preparing a cost estimate requires very detailed specifications of numerous provisions, and the materials that were released this morning do not provide sufficient detail on all of the provisions. Therefore, CBO cannot provide a cost estimate for the proposal without additional detail

Proponents of the Democrats' healthcare reform plans have used their ability to cut the deficits as one of the primary reasons to pass a bill. The CBO reported last year that the Senate and House bill would cut the deficit.

But Obama's plan adds an estimated $75 billion in new tax credits and spending. 

The administration's claims might not be verified for some time, the CBO said.

"Even if such detail were provided, analyzing the proposal would be a time-consuming process that could not be completed this week."

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs downplayed the lack of a CBO score at his daily press briefing Monday, saying that the president's plan contains previously scored items.

"I don't think what we lack for Thursday is a CBO score on the president's starting point," he said. "I understand that, but again so many of these proposals have been evaluated by the CBO that it's not as if this is something out of newly whole cloth.

"These are things that have been discussed, evaluated and judgment rendered on by quite frankly both sides of the aisle."

But Senate Republicans pointed to past statements from centrist Democrats and Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag last year stressing the importance of CBO scores. 

"If hypocrisy was an Olympic event Democrats would win gold, particularly with the moves they’ve displayed on the importance of CBO analysis for the health care debate," a GOP aide said.

Eric Zimmermann contributed to this post