Testifying before Senate Finance on CBO's Health Volumes

February 25, 2009

This morning Itestified before the Senate Finance Committee on CBO's two major health reports, Key Issues in Analyzing Major Health Insurance Proposals, and Budget Options for Health Care.The first examines the principal elements of reform plans that would affect our estimates of the effect of such plans on federal costs, insurance coverage, and other outcomes. The second comprises 115 discrete options to alter federal programs, affect the private health insurance market, or both. Thesetworeportsare the culmination of a tremendouseffort by many people at CBO as we've redoubled our capacity to analyze these complex issues. (I was recently asked to testify about these volumes before the Senate Budget Committee; click here for the blog summarizing my testimony there.)

As I emphasized today in my statement before the committee, health care reform is an urgent issue. In contrast with the situation in the economy and financial markets, our system for delivering and paying for health care is not fundamentally different this year from last year. However, the relatively gradual pace of change in health care is rarely seen as an argument for deferring action. Our current health system evolved over years and decades, and while coverage could be substantially expanded in a few years, it could take many years or even decades for the thoroughgoing changes needed to improve the system's efficiency to come fully to fruition. Because of the lead times involved in realizing these efficiencies, nearly all analysts think that those changes should begin now.