Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), the final Democratic holdout on health care, announced to his colleagues Saturday morning that he would support the Senate reform bill, clearing the way for final passage by Christmas of President Obama's top domestic policy priority.
The Senate is expected to work its way through a series of procedural motions over the next few days, with a vote on the legislation scheduled the evening of Dec. 24th. A conference with the House to produce a final bill would likely extend into January, Senate aides said.
Other not-too-trivial info:
Congressional budget analysts said the revised package, unveiled Saturday morning by Reid, would spend $871 billion over the next decade to extend coverage to more than 30 million Americans by dramatically expanding Medicaid and offering federal subsidies to those who lack affordable coverage through employers.
Those costs would be more than covered by nearly $400 billion over the next decade in new taxes and nearly $500 billion spending reductions, primarily cuts to Medicare, the federal health program for people over 65. The remainder, about $132 billion over 10 years, would go to lowering the federal deficit.
But the Congressional Budget Office found that the package could reduce budget deficits by as much as $1.3 trillion in the second decade, starting in 2019, a significant improvement in long-run savings compared with both the House bill and the measure Reid had previously crafted. In his blog, CBO director Douglas Elmendorf attributes the change to lower targets for Medicare spending after 2019.
That would be when the Death Panels get firm traction--assuming that Elmendorf isn't fudging.