$2T in healthcare savings? GOP not buying it

Republicans were skeptical, and undoubtedly a little annoyed, when healthcare industry representatives stood behind President Obama last month as he touted their pledge to find ways to reduce national healthcare spending by as much as $2 trillion over 10 years.

The promise wasn't enforceable, they said. The promise didn't come with any details on just where players in the healthcare market planned to find this money, they said. And anyway, what the White House and some spooked lobbying groups saying in the midst of a political battle on healthcare reform doesn't mean a thing when it comes to dollars and cents because the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is the only true arbiter on Capitol Hill. All fair points.

So when those same healthcare groups--hospitals, doctors, device makers, drug makers, insurance companies and workers--met Obama's deadline Monday by offering some specifics about their plans, did it make Republican lawmakers any less dubious?

No. No, it did not.

"I'm skeptical that these proposals will add up to anywhere near $2 trillion. In the legislative process, proposals rise or fall based on what CBO says about them, and the same will be true here," Senate Finance Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has hardly been a partisan bomb-thrower on healthcare reform as he and Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) continue to hold out hope of getting a deal, said in a statement.

House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Dave Camp (R-Mich.) wins the directness prize, though. Pretty much as soon as the industry groups released their recommendations Monday, Camp fired off a letter to the CBO asking for a cost analysis.

"Perhaps the most difficult issue in the health reform debate is deciding how to pay for it. Hopefully, the CBO can tell us whether these proposals save enough money to help offset the high cost of health reform," Camp said in statement that is not at all sarcastic.

- Jeffrey Young

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