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House Reviews Cost Savings in Health Care

5339106As Democratic leaders in the House prepare to consolidate their various health care plans, they are considering both more moderate and more liberal proposals to pay for reform.

Earlier this week, it was reported House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to include a robust government-run health insurance plan, or "public option," in the House floor bill -- one that would peg the public option's medical reimbursement rates to Medicare rates. Under Pelosi's preferred plan, the public option would pay doctors and medical providers 5 percent more than Medicare rates for their services.

Moderate Democrats would prefer for the public option to negotiate its own payment rates so it remains "on a level playing field" with private insurers. On Thursday, however, House leadership released estimates from the Congressional Budget Office showing that a Medicare-pegged public option would be $85 billion cheaper than the "level playing field" plan.

The more liberal public option that Pelosi prefers would save the government $110 billion over 10 years -- which is actually $20 billion more than earlier estimates, Congress Daily reports.

Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.), a leader in the moderate Blue Dog Democrat coalition, said the more robust public option would be bad for physicians, according to Congress Daily.

"We can't save costs on the backs of people who represent constituent patients and providers who've been at a competitive disadvantage," she said. Special Report: Health Care

The latest CBS/ New York Times poll shows that 65 percent of Americans saying they are in favor of a public option, and 26 percent oppose it. In August, 60 percent were in favor of the plan.

Meanwhile, Pelosi said today that the House is also considering methods of paying for reform put forward by the Senate Finance Committee -- the group with the most moderate health care bill. The House could adopt a plan to tax insurers for the more expensive health insurance plans they offer, she said. Other Senate proposals could be added to the House bill, though Pelosi did not say which ones.

The CBO is expected on Tuesday to give an estimate of what the costs of the new provisions would be.

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