Health-care reform faces budget challenges

05/13/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Today the White House emphasized health care reform, for the third straight day this week.

President Obama met with leaders in the House this morning, and said "the stars were aligned for health care legislation to happen this year."

Obama met with insurance executives and doctors on Monday, who have been some of the strongest critics of health care reform in the past.

Yesterday he met with business leaders who are finding ways to improve their health care costs.

In his brief comments to the press on the South Lawn of the White House, Obama was joined only by House Democrats, suggesting that he may not be working with Republicans at all right now. With the possibility of Al Franken from Minnesota becoming the 60th vote in the Senate soon, he may not need any of them.

But the big question remains, how can the president pay for the program? The total costs could be around $120 billion. In his budget, he proposes $60 billion as a down payment.

But Congress appears likely to reject half of that down payment. There is considerable opposition to his plan to limit high income families' tax deductions for charitable giving.

According to New York Times Business Columnist David Leonhardt, that leaves a $90 billion dollar hole to fill. He writes today that potentially the best plan is to have Congress limit the tax deduction for employer- provided health insurance. But that may not fly politically.

We’ll hear more from Leonhardt tomorrow night on why insurance companies don’t want a study to look at the effectiveness of current medical spending, and why a final plan may not be able to give coverage to the 47 million Americans who are without right now.

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