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New fiscal hurdle for health care reform

After numerous fits and starts, the issue of health care overhaul took off this week, with House leaders introducing their preferred approach and the Senate panel created to looks at the issue also coming up with a plan.

Now, however, the person in charge of determining the costs of legislation says the revamp efforts being discussed now could make things worse.

Elmendorf2 Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Elmendorf testified before a Senate committee today that the bills now being considered on Capitol Hill do not propose the fundamental changes needed to significantly reduce current federal health spending trends.

In fact, the Washington Post reports that Elmendorf believes that "instead of saving the federal government from fiscal catastrophe, the health reform measures being drafted by congressional Democrats would increase rather than reduce public spending on health care, potentially worsening an already bleak budget outlook."

Despite holding a majority in both the Senate and House, Democrats are not not united on just how to provide health coverage for all Americans, particularly the almost 46 million uninsured individuals. Elmendorf's position is not going to help the party as it works to get legislation through Congress.

One of the steps that Elmendorf says needs to be taken is ending or limiting the tax-free treatment of employer-provided health benefits, a topic that already has divided lawmakers.

So while some on Capitol Hill were hoping to have a health care measure completed before the August recess, Elmendorf's warnings could prompt opponents of the legislation in both parties to increase their efforts to halt or at least slow it down.


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