The Democratic senators who voted against it were Sens. Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Patty Murray of Washington, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont, an independent but a member of the Democratic caucus, also opposed the bill.
Democrats who voted in favor of the amendment were: Sens. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland.
The Congressional Budget Office issued its first score of the House Democrats’ health care legislation Tuesday, pricing it at a whopping $1.042 trillion over the next 10 years although cautioning it was only an initial, incomplete cost estimate.
Republicans used this opportunity to remind that previous costs estimates of health care legislation have been grossly under calculated in the past. A chart from the Republican Party’s Joint Economic Committee circulated on Capitol Hill among staff and given to The Washington Times contained several estimates by the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee about how much Medicare hospital insurance would cost, dating from Medicare’s 1965 inception.
At that time, Congress said it would cost $9 billion annually by 1990. The actual cost of it in 1990 was $67 billion, almost eight times what Congress estimated. The same committee said the entire Medicare program would cost $12 billion in 1990. It ended up being more than nine times that much - $111 billion. More recently, in 2003, CBO estimated that the Medicare drug benefit, promoted by President George W. Bush, would cost $27.5 billion in 2006. They were closer to the mark this time, but still wrong; it cost $31.9 billion that year.
The Republican committee offered two reasons why the estimates were so far off, given that both the parties have made these mistakes in the past. First, “overly optimistic assumptions regarding changes in the behavior of health care and providers” and second, politics.
“While estimators may not consciously ‘low-ball’ the numbers, pressure from bill authors to ‘keep the score down’ may lead to unconscious assumptions favoring lower costs,” the panel wrote.
Amanda Carpenter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.