Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Will Obama's Healthcare Plan Reduce Costs?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Will Obama's Healthcare Plan Reduce Costs?

Article excerpt

Congress and ordinary Americans debate whether Obama's healthcare plan will reduce costs or increase them.

As President Obama tries this week to put his healthcare plan on a fast track toward passage, he's still struggling to persuade Americans that the plan will reduce costs.

"My proposal would bring down the cost of healthcare for millions - families, businesses, and the federal government," Mr. Obama said Wednesday in making his pitch. "Let's get it done."

But after a year in which Democrats have been debating and refining reform plans, sometimes with Republican input, the cost savings that Obama touts remain a matter of sharp debate.

While the president says that his numbers add up to real progress against runaway medical costs, his Republican critics bluntly say the opposite.

"This bill adds a new healthcare entitlement when we have no idea how to pay for the entitlements we already have," Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin said at a healthcare summit Obama convened last week.

Who's right? Before diving into some of the numbers, it's worth noting that American voters appear to have concluded that costs are a very big concern. Most Americans like the core Democratic ideas, but a majority also worries that the reforms won't tame fast-rising costs.

In an ABC News/Washington Post poll earlier this month, 59 percent called Obama's plan "too expensive." And the same poll in January found a majority saying they expect their own healthcare costs to go up - and the nation's overall health tab to rise - if the proposed changes become law. The Obama plan is designed to extend insurance to some 31 million additional Americans by 2019. It hinges on a mandate for individuals to buy insurance or pay a penalty - and on subsidies to help moderate-income families afford the insurance.

In the year 2019 alone, the government would spend about $84 billion in subsidies and $87 billion to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income Americans, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis of a Senate bill, similar to Obama's plan.

In crafting his new plan, with an eye toward winning votes of enough Democrats in the House, the president boosted the subsidies above what the Senate bill envisioned. …

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