Baucus Bill Saves Money (for Now!), and ... Doesn’t Do Much Else

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Senators Max Baucus and Blanche Lincoln look frightened. Maybe because they are about to kiss in front of everybody.

Yesterday saw the anticipated release of the Congressional Budget Office's analysis of the Senate Finance Committee's health-care bill. In other words, how much is this thing going to cost us? And according to the CBO, which is highly respected among both parties (except when their conclusions aren't convenient!), figures that the bill will cost $829 billion over ten years but overall cut the federal deficit by $81 billion. Sounds great! Oh, except that those numbers are actually very preliminary, and, for most people, the bill might not really do anything.

• You know how we kept being told that this health-care-reform thing was supposed to meaningfully impact the lives of people who already have health insurance? Ezra Klein doesn't think it will. "Unless you're uninsured, or on the individual market, this bill is not expected to affect you," he writes. "Remember this next time you hear some congressman talk about how this bill will revolutionize the American health-care system, either for better or for worse." [Ezra Klein/WP]

• In fact, the bill will still only cover "94 percent of legal non-elderly residents and 91 percent of all non-elderly residents" by 2019 (after which things inevitably get hazy, so the CBO isn't even going to try). That's not as good as the House bill, Jonathan Cohn points out. [Treatment/New Republic]

• Nevertheless, the fact that it cuts the deficit over time produced a "collective exhale of Democrats," according to Marc Ambinder. Now "no Democrat — or Republican — can argue that, based on the shared reverence for the CBO source, health care will add to the deficit ... even though, as the CBO admits, a projection is just a projection." [Atlantic]

• Is it ever! The CBO's cost analysis is based only on the bill's layman language, Chris Frates writes, and won't be official until it's translated into "legislative language," which Democrats resisted because it would have taken longer. [Live Pulse/Politico]

• Plus, as Republicans note, this bill still has to be merged with another bill, to create a new one "written secretly by Democratic leaders," report Robert Pear and David Herszenhorn. [NYT]

• It may turn out that the states have a ton of autonomy in actually implementing (or not!) the health-care-reform bill themselves, writes Kate Pickert. Meaning that "politicians could find themselves blamed for health-care reform that doesn't deliver, with less tools than they might have had to fix it." [Time]

• As part of a potential compromise, one of the things states might be able to opt out of is the public option, writes Sam Stein. [HuffPo]

• Which is a plan that, Steve Benen thinks, "should satisfy the concerns of Ben Nelson & Co.," otherwise known as moderate Democrats. [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• But, Timothy Noah writes, that's not the only compromise that could result in something that looks and acts like a public option. [Slate]

• The House, for its part, may not have to compromise at all, as it has enough votes for a "robust public option," reports Mike Soraghan. [Hill]

• Oh, and Bob Dole, despite some reservations, thinks Republicans should vote for it. [Kansas City Star]