CBO lowers health reform cost estimate

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(CBS/AP) Congressional economists are estimating somewhat lower costs for covering the uninsured under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law, as well as slightly fewer people gaining coverage.

Assuming the Supreme Court does not overturn the law, the Congressional Budget Office would reduce the number of uninsured by 30 million in 2016, or 2 million fewer people than estimated last year. Total costs from 2012-2021 are about $50 billion lower than estimated last year. That's due to a combination of factors, including overall health care costs rising more slowly than in the recent past.

The CBO report also says the government will run a $1.2 trillion deficit for the budget year ending just a few weeks before Election Day. It would be the fourth straight year of trillion dollar-plus deficits.

The almost $100 billion spike from earlier projections for the fiscal 2012 deficit comes almost exclusively because Congress passed legislation recommended by President Barack Obama to renew a 2 percentage point cut in payroll taxes and jobless benefits for people languishing on unemployment rolls for more than six months.

Last year's deficit registered $1.3 trillion.

The report comes as Republicans controlling the House are preparing for this year's budget debate, which is sure to spill over into the presidential campaign as the two sides quarrel over Medicare, taxes and cuts to the Pentagon budget.

The budget plans of the leading GOP presidential candidates each call for new, significantly larger tax cuts that would add even more to projected deficits, according to independent analysts.

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