Health Bill CBO Score: $849 Billion Over Next Decade

A preliminary Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Senate health care legislation finds that the bill will cost $849 billion over the next decade while covering 94 percent of eligible Americans, a Democratic leadership aide told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

The aide would still not get into the bill's specifics -- including whether it would include a public option for insurance coverage and what tax mechanisms would be pay for it. The aide did, however, say that 31 million currently uninsured Americans would be covered under the legislation. The bill would also lower the deficit by $127 billion over the next decade -- "going further than any other bill" -- and by $650 billion during the decade after that, according to the aide.

By keeping the total cost of the bill under $900 billion, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) met one of the conditions set by the Obama White House. The bill, said the aide, is also expected to drastically bend the cost curve in the health care system -- another major Obama objective -- by achieving "almost a trillion dollars in cost savings" within the health care system.

Reid is hoping to officially file the bill and proceed to debate later in the week, but the aide cautioned that it could be pushed to Saturday.

UPDATE: Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) told reporters outside a caucus briefing that the bill includes a national public option with an opt-out provision for states, a tax on health insurance plans that exceed $8500 for individuals and $23,000 for families and language on abortion that does not go as far as Bart Stupak's amendment in the House. Conrad seemed supportive of the bill but would not fully commit to voting for it, saying he'd like to see amendments added.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, meanwhile, told reporters a cloture vote to bring the bill to the floor for debate (and amendments) is expected on Saturday.

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