Washington — Democrats trying to push President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul plan through the Senate got a sober warning Friday that costs will keep going up and proposed Medicare savings may harm the program.
A new report from government economic analysts at the Health and Human Services Department found that the nation’s $2.5 trillion annual health care tab won’t shrink under the Democratic blueprint that senators are debating. Instead, it would grow somewhat more rapidly than if Congress does nothing.
More troubling was the report’s assessment that the Democrats’ plan to squeeze Medicare for $493 billion over 10 years in savings relies on specific policy changes that “may be unrealistic” and could lead to cuts in services. The Medicare savings are expected to cover about half the nearly $1 trillion, 10-year cost of expanding coverage to the uninsured.
In still more bad news, the report starkly warned that a new long-term care insurance plan included in the legislation could “face a significant risk of failure” because it would attract people in poor health, leading to higher and higher premiums, and eventually triggering an “insurance death spiral.” Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., brushed that aside, pointing to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office that found the program would be solvent for 75 years.
The one bright note: The bill would provide coverage to 93 percent of U.S. residents, reducing the number of uninsured people by about 33 million, the report said.