USA

Experts say health reform would reduce US budget deficit

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that President Barack Obama's hotly disputed plan to reform the US health-care system would reduce the country's budget deficit.

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AFP - President Barack Obama's plan to overhaul the US health care system got a boost Wednesday when congressional budget experts said it would reduce the country's ballooning budget deficit.

According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the health care reform plan currently before the Senate Finance Committee would reduce the budget deficit by 81 billion dollars over 10 years at a total cost of 829 billion dollars.

That finding was in line with Obama's pledge that his health reform push will not increase budget deficits by "one dime."

The legislation that would extend health insurance to the around 46 million people who currently lack coverage in the United States would also likely lead to "continued reductions in federal budget deficits," the CBO added.

Senator Max Baucus, who chairs the panel and has played a key role in designing the legislation, hailed the findings as he seeks to obtain the backing of at least one Republican, Senator Olympia Snowe, and convince centrist Democrats who remain undecided.

"Our balanced approach to health reform has paid off yet again," he said on the Senate floor.

"This legislation is a smart investment on the federal balance sheet, and it's an even smarter investment for American families, businesses and our economy.

Under the proposal, 94 percent of non-elderly US residents would have insurance coverage, up from the current 83 percent, according to the CBO. That translates to nearly 30 million more US residents covered by insurance.

The findings paved the way for a vote in the Senate Finance Committee, which would then reconcile its measure with the Health Committee before a full Senate vote.

A total of five different versions of health care reform are competing for influence in Congress, with weeks of haggling and horse-trading expected before any final version of the bill comes to a vote.

Obama, whose political viability is on the line with his health care push, and lawmakers in his Democratic Party are seeking a final vote before the end of the year.

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