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Will this man cook the books for Obama on health care "reform"?


June 10 (Bloomberg) -- Doug Elmendorf, a low-profile economist who leads a little-known congressional office [the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO*], may hold more sway in the debate over President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul than many lawmakers, administration officials or lobbyists.

The 47-year-old head of the Congressional Budget Office is the official scorekeeper for the cost of health-care proposals on Capitol Hill.

Elmendorf’s agency gets the final word on the price of a government insurance plan, the savings from fighting obesity and whether a bill fulfills Obama’s pledge to expand health-care coverage and cut costs without raising the budget deficit. The fate of the entire effort may rise or fall on that judgment.

“They’re god,” said Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, the top Republican on the Finance Committee. “If they say something costs X number of dollars, we can disagree all we want but unless you got 60 votes to override them it doesn’t do any good.”

Elmendorf, who had worked at the CBO in the early 1990s, was appointed to the top job in January. While earning a doctorate at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Elmendorf’s dissertation advisers included Lawrence Summers, director of Obama’s National Economic Council. Elmendorf has worked at the Federal Reserve, the Treasury Department and the Washington-based Brookings Institution, a policy research group. ...

Sounds like a fully paid up Finance Democrat.

At CBO, more than 50 economists and public-policy analysts -- almost a quarter of the agency’s staff -- are churning out analyses as members of Congress put forward their own ideas for health-care changes.

There’s often room for debate because cost estimates are based on assumptions about how millions of businesses and individuals may respond to unprecedented changes.

“There should be no illusions about the precision with which we can make these projections,” Elmendorf said. “There is a tremendous amount of uncertainty.”

So, plenty of room for maneuver.

Somebody with a lot more clout than I have should interview Elmendorf and find out how HR 676 got scored. Or ask John Conyers??

NOTE * Hardly unknown!

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Submitted by hipparchia on

the usual process is that bills don't get scored until they get out of committee, and hr 676 is still stuck in all 3 of the committees it's been referred to [got 79 cosponsors so far though, the newest one added yesterday].

as i understand it, someone can ask cbo to score a bill even before it gets out of committee, but this is very seldom done. cbo does take their responsibility seriously, and spends some time and effort [and it does take a fair amount of time and effort to do it right], so nobody likes to ask frivolously. one of the definitions of frivolously, in this context, is hasn't got a snowball's chance in florida of getting out of committee.

that said, dkos poster drsteveb [who has been doing yeoman's work educating the kossacks about single payer] is one of the ones trying to get cbo to score hr 676 anyway. i'd like to see more of us take up this call [not that i know where to start on organizing that].

meanwhile, drsteveb has two posts [good explanations, great charts] on the commonwealth fund's study of various proposed plans. they chose to use pete stark's version of a medicare-for-all bill, which isn't as good as hr 676, but it still scores the best of all plans studied, and better than the building blocks plan, which is one most similar to obama/baucus.

the commonwealth fund estimates that stark's bill would lower overall healthcare spending by about $58 billion in 2010 if it passed today. not as good as the $350-400 billion that hr 676 would get us, but better by far than the building blocks plan, which is estimated to raise costs overall and would still leave some of us uninsured. in contrast, stark's bill would cover everyone.

the final table in this post is a very nice summary.

nb: the commonwealth fund is definitely not in favor of single payer, they'd much rather promote private insurance, but they are smart enough to recognize reality.

Submitted by hipparchia on

hard to say.

back in dec 2008 cbo [still under peter orszag] scored the democrats' [mostly baucus'] proposals [196pg pdf or short overview] v-e-e-e-e-r-r-r-r-r-y conservatively [and rightly so, imnsho].

baucus was not happy, but unfortunately purported liberals around the blogosphere [i won't link to all of them] took up the hue and cry, berating cbo: ur not doing it rite! they all said.