WH strongly backs HELP committee healthcare reform plan

The White House released a strong statement today backing the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee's healthcare reform bill. President Obama touted new Congressional Budget Office estimates that scored the legislation at a much lower cost to taxpayers than previously thought.

Obama said:
Today the Senate HELP committee has produced legislation that lowers costs, protects choice of doctors and plans and assures quality and affordable health care for Americans.

The Congressional Budget Office has now issued a more complete review of this bill, concluding that it will cost less and cover more Americans than originally estimated.

The CBO now estimates the bill will cost $611 billion as opposed to $1 trillion.

Obama also noted that the HELP committee version contains a public option, saying "The public option would make health care affordable by increasing competition, providing more choices and keeping the insurance companies honest." The president echoed remarks he made at yesterday's healthcare town hall meeting in Annandale, VA.

Two senior senators, Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), head the HELP committee. Dodd's office released a statement lauding the new CBO estimates today.

President Obama's release suggests that the HELP version will be merged with the Senate Finance Committee's version of the reform bill. The Finance Committee, however, has yet to issue a statement on the new legislation. Members of the committee chaired by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) had previously balked at the CBO's original cost estimate.

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