The proposed final healthcare legislation would cut the U.S. deficit by $138 billion in 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office announced Thursday.
U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters earlier on Thursday that the CBO said the sweeping healthcare overhaul would cut the deficit by more than $100 billion in the first ten years — and some $1 trillion in the subsequent decade. But the CBO said it is still assessing proposed changes to the Senate bill over the next ten years.
Hoyer said momentum was growing for the legislation despite solid Republican opposition and that the U.S. House of Representatives was on track to vote on the bill on Sunday.
"The more and more people have looked at this bill ... a greater number of people are becoming more comfortable," he said.
On Wednesday, the bill gained traction as liberal lawmaker Rep. Dennis Kucinich became the first to switch his opposition and Catholic nuns declared their support in an unusual public break with the bishops.
The bill delivers on President Barack Obama's top domestic priority by providing coverage to more than 30 million people now uninsured at a 10-year cost of $940 billion. It does so through a combination of tax credits for middle class households and an expansion of the Medicaid program for low income people.
The big expansion of coverage would not come until 2014, when new health insurance marketplaces open for business.
In the meantime, the legislation calls for a series of new consumer benefits.
Insurers could not deny coverage to children because of a pre-existing health problem, nor could they place lifetime dollar caps on the amount of coverage. A new high-risk health insurance pool would provide coverage to uninsured people who can't get private coverage because of health problems.
Once the legislation is fully phased in, most Americans would be required to carry coverage — and insurers would be forbidden from turning down people with health problems, or from charging them more.
Democrats are following a complicated two-track legislative strategy for passing the bill. First, the House will have to approve a Senate bill that many of its Democratic members object to. Then both chambers will quickly pass a package of fixes agreed to in negotiations with the White House.
Since the House will vote first, Hoyer said lawmakers are seeking assurances from their Senate counterparts that they have enough votes to pass the follow-up measure as well.
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