Pelosi: Health Care Bill "Best Initiative" for the Economy

AP

Nancy Pelosi
AP

Updated at 2:10 p.m. ET

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today outlined the changes to the Democrats' health care reform overhaul, praising the reform package for bringing down the deficit according to a nonpartisan estimation.

"They say a picture is worth a thousand words," Pelosi said. "Well, a number is worth a lot, too."

The Congressional Budget Office earlier today released a preliminary report saying the bill would cost $940 billion over 10 years, but would also cut the federal deficit by $130 billion in its first 10 years and by $1.2 trillion in its second 10 years.

"The best initiative we can take to improve jobs, strengthen our economic security, is to pass health care reform," Pelosi said. "We will make progress by passing this legislation."

The new reform package amends the Senate health care bill through a separate, reconciliation "fix it" bill that addresses some of the problems House Democrats had with the Senate bill (The 153-page reconciliation bill is available here). The changes, Pelosi said, include:

  • "More affordability for the middle class" through increased subsidies for people to purchase insurance

  • Closing the "doughnut hole" gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage entirely

  • Corrections to "state inequities" such as the "Cornhusker kickback" deal that exempted the state of Nebraska from having to pay for any expansion of Medicaid

  • Funding for primary doctors who handle Medicaid cases

  • Increased insurance regulations

  • Changes to the "Cadillac" excise tax on high-end insurance plans so it hits fewer people. "I call it the platinum Rolls-Royce" tax, Pelosi said.

The cost of the new legislation came under attack from Republicans today. "Every time a new iteration of the Democrats' health-care bill is unveiled, the price tag goes up," Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) said in a statement. "The only thing that remains the same is that the American taxpayer will be on the hook to pay for it."

However, Democrats said earlier today the bill if fully paid for and that nearly two-thirds of the bill's cost is paid for by reducing health care costs. Pelosi said the majority of funding for the bill would come from reducing waste and fraud in Medicare. The rest of the money, she said, would come from the excise tax and a "fee" on unearned income.

While Democratic leaders praised the CBO estimations of the bill, it is unclear whether the new figures will be enough to convince enough Democrats to get on board to pass the legislation.

"Every vote around here is a heavy lift," Pelosi said. "We have great diversity in our caucus. We don't have a rubber-stamp Congress or rubber-stamp caucus."

Pelosi blamed the hesitation of some Democrats to support the measure on the opposition tactics employed by Republicans.

"It does show also the impact of a campaign of misrepresentation, of fear," she said. "There is no limit to what the other side will do to protect the insurance companies."

Pelosi today also defended the "deem and pass" or "Slaughter solution" method by which the House plans to pass both the Senate bill and the reconciliation bill. Under that plan, the House would only have to vote once for both bills -- a method that has been used by both parties numerous times but that Republicans now call an outrage.

The speaker said the GOP outcry was another example of their extreme obstructionist tactics.

"The fact is, what we're talking about here is the regular order that has been used hundreds of times," Pelosi said. "The American people should know this is what they're going to see a full menu of in the next couple of days -- mischaracterizations, misrepresentations."

More Coverage of the Health Care Reform Debate:

Stupak's Life a "Living Hell" because of Abortion Position
Dem Health Care Bill Pegged at $940B Over 10 Years
Temperature Rising for Health Care Votes
Health Care Passage Plan Unconstitutional?
Obama Pushes Health Care Bill in Combative Fox Interview
Idaho to Sue If Health Care Bill Passes
Republicans Have Used "Slaughter Solution" Many Times
Dennis Kucinich to Vote Yes on Health Care
Obama's Health Care Plan: What Do You Think?
CBSNews.com Special Report: Health Care

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