One of the greatest concerns on both sides of the health care debate has been cost. Wouldn't a public health insurance plan, designed to cover millions of Americans at rates significantly more affordable than private health insurance, carry an enormous price tag? The Congressional Budget Office has scored Max Baucus's health care reform plan, projecting it would actually lower the deficit by $81 billion over the first ten years. In other words, it pays for itself. The CBO report also says it would ensure 94% of Americans have insurance, an increase from the current 83% that means 29 million Americans will receive coverage. Is this the moment that will finally secure health care reform? Update: See also the caveats and bad news in the CBO report.

  • Here's Who Really Benefits Ezra Klein surveys who would be most impacted. "All these proposals are major improvements for the uninsured and those left out of the employer-based market. That means they're major improvements for those who are hurting the worst," he writes. "CBO estimates that 29 million Americans who would've otherwise been uninsured will be covered. That's a very big deal. Five million Americans who would otherwise have been left to the individual market will find a better option. And 3 million Americans who would've otherwise been in employer-based health insurance will be on the exchanges or, in some cases, on Medicaid. The insurance exchanges are projected to serve 23 million people come 2019, and 18 million of the members will be low-income and on subsidies."
  • Opportunity to Expand Coverage Rachel Maddow suggests that the bill's cheapness leaves room to cover more people. "One response that was highlighted on The New York Times' web site today was that hospital groups are upset because they say the new analysis shows that the bill doesn't get close enough to universal coverage. So, it's not going to cost as much money as expected, and it's not covering enough people. I wonder if this could be an occasion for making the bill more progressive, spend a little more, cover a few more people."
  • Leaves Republicans Little Room for Objection Howard Fineman notes that Republicans have long trusted such CBO reports. "This bill is going to successfully, I think, put a floor under the negotiations," he told Maddow. "And I think the dynamics in negotiations, keeping in mind, though, the complexity of the Senate, they're all going to be in the direction of trying to improve the bill as far as the president is concerned, I think. That CBO thing was very significant because the Republicans have put a lot of stock in CBO numbers. Now, they can't walk away from the bill just based on that."
  • Republicans for Reform? Steve Benen adds Bob Dole to the growing list of Republicans who support health care reform, but notes that none are actually in Congress. "To be sure, none of these guys will have a vote when reform comes to the floor. But this recent trend nevertheless matters. The growing-but-informal 'Republicans for Reform' gives the larger effort a meaningful boost -- making reform appear more bipartisan, giving cover to centrist Dems, painting GOP lawmakers as petty obstructionists, and making it that much more difficult to characterize reform as some kind of radical liberal idea."