The Spectacle Blog

Has the Health Care Push Hit Another Hitch?

By on 3.17.10 | 4:53PM

Health care news has been moving so fast and furiously, that anytime I begin to write something on the blog, it runs the risk of being outdated by the time I post it -- or shortly thereafter. But with that said, as of this writing, we still do not have either a final health care bill or a score from the Congressional Budget Office -- and if Democrats want to vote for a bill on Saturday (allowing President Obama to sign it before leaving on his trip to Indonesia) they have to release it by tonight (if they want to stick by their commitment to post the bill online for 72 hours).

When you keep reading about delays with the CBO score, it only means they haven't gotten the numbers they want yet. And we now have a few more data points suggesting that the timeline is slipping.

"I don't expect to meet until Saturday -- if then," Rules Committee Chairwoman Louise Slaughter told Politico. If the Rules Committee doesn't meet until Saturday, then we wouldn't expect to see a vote until Sunday.

But Ben Smith notes a reemerging issue:

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is headed into a meeting with President Obama this afternoon after the White House and Congressional leaders have begun to discuss a higher-than-expected excise tax on some health care plans, in order to maintain their claim that health care legislation will reduce the deficit, a source involved in health care talks said.

Any unexpected change to the health care plan could endanger support for the bill from labor, which agreed to back it after reductions to the planned excise tax. Proposed new changes, I'm told, concern cuts to the rate at which increases to the tax exemption cap are indexed.

As I wrote yesterday, Democrats face a number of challenges meeting their deficit reduction goals, because the changes they want will increase spending and decrease revenue. Delaying the "Cadillac tax" until 2018 alone could deprive them of $85 billion, based on prior CBO estimates (see chart on page 9 of this PDF). This may be a minor hiccup, or it may be a real hitch, and though things have been trending well for Democrats, they still have a small margin of error when it comes to timing and votes. It's late in the game to be revisiting the "Cadillac Tax" if that is in fact what's happening.

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