Pelosi Says CBO Must Estimate Cost of Final Health Care Bill Before House Votes on It
July 10, 2009 - 4:12 PMHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) "has" to score the final text of the health care reform bill before it can be voted on in the House.
“Scoring” a bill means to analyze and give estimates of how much each provision of a bill is going to cost taxpayers.
At a press conference last Thursday, CNSNews.com asked Pelosi: “Will you let the CBO score the final text of the health care bill before it's voted on in the House? And is there an upper limit to the new debt you are willing to incur from that bill? And if so, what is that limit?”
“Yes. Yes. We have to have the CBO score. That's the world that we live in,” responded Pelosi.
Pelosi then began to explain that CBO scoring does not take into account all of the savings House Democrats are anticipating as a result of a well-functioning “reformed” health care system.
“Having said that, I do want to say that the CBO does not score any savings from prevention and the rest,” Pelosi pointed out. “And as we put the bill forward, we want to note that our goal is to lower cost, improve quality and make America healthier.”
While Pelosi said she will “respect” the CBO cost evaluation, she also referred to additional cost “validations” that will be taken into consideration.
”We have other validations--maybe the OMB (Office of Management and Budget), others, academic and other distinguished institutions--who can quantify exactly how much the hundreds of billions of dollars of savings are in some of the initiatives we take.”
Pelosi added: “So we will respect what the CBO score says. We will put it in the context of a larger context.”
Pelosi described the importance of scoring the benefits of the bill before scoring the cost of the bill.
“Some in the Congress want to direct scoring to include the benefits of prevention, for example, and early intervention. And we have to have that score before we go forward,” Pelosi said. “That's part of what we're waiting for--for the pay-fors (sic)--and then the CBO scoring after that as to what the bill will cost.”
Pelosi concluded by emphasizing the importance of eliminating excess spending while also establishing priorities when allocating that spending. She also reiterates President Obama’s requirement that the bill must not contribute to the deficit.
“As I've said, I want this to be--I've told members as recently as this morning, squeeze out what you can out of the system. Savings, savings, savings and then we have to establish priorities, and that's very challenging. But otherwise, the bill is endless, so we have to contain it, and it must be paid for.”
The health care reform plan introduced by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D- Mass.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont)--and being finalized by Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.)--would cost at least $1 trillion if enacted, according to a preliminary CBO cost analysis.
The Kennedy-Baucus plan does not include the so-called "public option"--a government-run health insurance program. But this is a component that will be included in the bill coming out of the House, Pelosi said Thursday.
“Congress is moving with comprehensive health reform that provides affordability, accessibility, quality, and it will have, coming out of the House, a public option,” Pelosi said.
CNSNews.com reported in June that leading Democrats in the Senate share Pelosi’s concerns that the CBO’s numbers do not take into consideration the savings that they believe the plan would create. They say some of the costs of the plan could be covered by taxing certain “unhealthy” foods and products, such as sugar and tobacco.