Healthcare Business

CBO Pans Healthcare Plan

Obama’s health care received perhaps its harshest criticism to-date Thursday, after the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said it will “significantly” expand public spending in an already unbalanced budget.

The testimony puts serious doubt in the ability that a health care reform bill might be passed ahead of the August recess. In the near-term, that may be seen as a boon for private health insurance providers including Aetna Inc. (AET), Humana Inc. (NYSE: HUM), United Health Group Inc. (NYSE: UNH) and HealthNet Inc. (NYSE: HNT).

Before the Senate Budget Committee, CBO director Douglas Elmendorf said the Democratic-sponsored health care bills making their way through the House and Senate would do nothing to curb skyrocketing health care spending; It would do the opposite, he said, and raise it at the federal level.

In his testimony, Elmendorf offered his own suggestions on the types of meaningful health care budget reform that’s needed. Among his suggestions is to tax employer-provided benefits, saying that it’s a “subsidy” that needs to be ended.

Elmendorf’s comment on taxing benefits may be reason enough for private insurers to catch a bid. It’s certainly not the type of thing that gets Congressional members re-elected.

The testimony is sure to raise additional questions in coming days about how the U.S. can afford health care coverage for all, even among those who think the government can’t afford not to provide it.

Mike Tarsala