CBO estimates said to be slowing healthcare reform planning.

The Wall Street Journal (5/5, A2, Adamy, subscription required) reports that “Senate leaders are working against a tightening calendar in tackling two of the most difficult aspects of a healthcare overhaul: how to provide every American with health-insurance coverage and how to pay for it.” Lawmakers looking “to have bipartisan legislation drafted by June that would remake the nation’s healthcare system” are waiting on cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, which “are taking longer than lawmakers would like.” While the CBO “already has initial estimates for the costs for most of the Senate Finance Committee’s proposals for changing the healthcare delivery system…it is still working on budget estimates for expanding coverage and lawmakers’ broader question of how to finance the entire plan.” According to CBO director Douglas Elmendorf, “This is as complicated as all get out.”

Daschle puts health reform odds at 50-50. In the Wall Street Journal (5/4) Health Blog, Sarah Rubenstein pointed out that Tom Daschle recently “put the odds of passing a health-reform bill ‘of breadth’ this year at 50-50.” Daschle noted that Sen. Arlen Specter’s (PA) decision to become a Democrat, budget reconciliation, and President Obama’s “commitment” have made him “slightly more optimistic” on the possibilities of passing healthcare reform, but “economy’s problems may be to overwhelming to get something as big as health reform passed.”

Liberal healthcare advocates worry Republican pressure could weaken reform bill. The Washington Times (5/5, Lengell) reports that “many liberal healthcare advocates, who have embraced President Obama’s pledge to push for universal healthcare, are growing worried that Democrats in Congress will succumb to Republican pressure and sell the plan short.” According to the Times, many advocates believe Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), “who has taken the lead on drafting a healthcare reform bill,” is “too willing to compromise” with Republicans. Sen. Baucus “has frayed the nerves of many liberals by toning down his enthusiasm in recent weeks for a government-run, or public option, health insurance plan that would compete with the private sector.” Advocates worry that, “even if a public option insurance plan is included in a final bill, many on the left worry it will be diluted to the point of being ineffective at best, or a burden to the healthcare system at worst.”

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