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Cochran: Healthcare reform pressuring budget

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), vice chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and ranking member on the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, is predicting that unfunded costs for implementing and paying for the nation’s new healthcare reform law will put new pressure on the federal budget—and Congress.

In a letter to Cochran, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) indicated that Congress would have to provide more than $115 billion in additional discretionary spending—or spending subject to annual appropriations—over the next 10 years to implement and pay for programs authorized by the law. This spending is on top of the nearly $1 trillion price tag on the original bill and does not include costs for programs authorized in the bill to be funded with “such sums as may be necessary.”

“The CBO projection on discretionary costs confirms our fears that there are significant additional costs associated with the overreaching health care reform law and that finding this money will add tremendous pressure on Congress and the federal budget,” Cochran said. “Congress will be compelled to either add to the deficit, cut into other areas to pay for these costs, or simply decide we cannot afford to implement everything promised in the health care reform law.  Any of these options represent difficult decisions.”

The CBO projection was in response to correspondence sent by Cochran asking the nonpartisan group to review projected discretionary spending costs associated with the health care reform law pushed through Congress in March on a partisan Democratic vote.

The CBO estimated that total authorized costs to implement the health care reform law and to pay for authorized grant and other discretionary program spending would “probably exceed $115 billion over the 2010-2019 period…” The CBO did not offer cost estimates associated with 50 programs without specific funding authorizations. It estimated that implementation costs would range between $10 billion and $20 billion over 10 years for the Internal Revenue Service and Department of Health and Human Services.

In mid-March, CBO initially estimated additional discretionary costs associated with the healthcare reform bill would be about $100 million.

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