Video: Lower cost estimates for health proposals

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    >> very much.

    >>> price tag for health care just got a lot lower. new analysis from the congressional budget office , the cbo, puts the cost of one version of the house plan at $859 billion. another at $905 billion. i knows these are astronomical numbers to wrap your head around but a lot less than the $2 trillion package presented by the house this summer. joining us to get insight from "the washington post " is lori montgomery. thank you for inc. joining us.

    >> thank you.

    >> why are we seeing a lower number?

    >> it's a very preliminary number. the house is, we hear, quite a ways away from make ago final decision on a package that can get the votes of all the democrats and their caucus. as you know, they've been struggling with with liberals on one hand who want to see one kind of a government-run insurance plan and conservatives on the other who wants to see another government-run insurance plan called the public option. what these numbers represent is speaker pelosi and other house leaders sending to the cbo sort of different ideas about how these two things might be approached and whether those two ideas can, in fact, bring the price tag under the $900 billion that president obama has said he wants to spend over ten years. these initial numbers indicate that they're getting close to their goal.

    >> i've got to ask you, how much stock should we put in these numbers? i know that once the merging of these proposals come together, the number can change. should we really be getting -- when i say we, the american people wondering what kind of health care system we will have in the end. should we be getting caught up in it right now?

    >> it's very early. the house is working to merge their bills into a single bill. the senate is working to merge their bills into a single bill but what this tells us, i think, is that two things. we're not going to see, you know, 1.5, 2 trillion type package we have been talking about in the spring. it's clear that both chambers are getting their policies to a point where we're only going to be spending somewhere in the neighborhood of $800 billion to $900 billion the next ten years. the other thing that is happening this could prove problematic. we are ratcheting down some of the generosity it's giving to people who would be required, for the first time, to buy health insurance .

    >> lori, thank you very much. we will see what happens.

updated 10/16/2009 1:59:17 PM ET 2009-10-16T17:59:17

Early estimates from congressional budget umpires show that House Democrats are close to President Barack Obama's $900 billion target for health care legislation, a spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday.

The House versions, including a government-run insurance plan as an option for consumers, would cost under $900 billion over 10 years, said Brendan Daly, a spokesman for Pelosi, D-Calif. But, he said, "No final policy decisions have been made on how to proceed."

Preliminary cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office show the evolving legislation is already within range of Obama's target. The numbers remain in flux, however, because House leaders are still tinkering with details and sending in new policy ideas to budget analysts.

The ballpark figure of $900 billion reflects the cost of expanding coverage by providing tax credits to help people buy health insurance, and also by broadening the Medicaid health program to reach more low-income people, Daly said.

It does not include some $240 billion over ten years that lawmakers want to spend to address a shortfall in Medicare payments to doctors. The White House says those costs should not be included in the pricetag for the health care overhaul. But the Medicare provision was part of the original House bill.

The final House bill is expected to include a government-sponsored insurance plan that would compete with private health insurers. Leading Democratic lawmakers say support is building for a Medicare-like plan in which the government would set the payment levels for medical providers, instead of negotiating.

Health care legislation is expected to be on the House floor in early November. In the Senate, Democratic leaders hope to be on the floor at around the same time, but they must first reconcile differences between two committee-passed versions.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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