Who Is Keeping The CBO's Public Plan Estimates Secret? - Updated

The House's bill contains a public option that would pay a Medicare rates plus 5%. According to the CBO this will make the House's public plan roughly 10% cheaper than private insurance. Since the size of subsidies are based on the average of the three cheapest plans it should dramatically reduce the cost of the bill.

Over a week ago Jonathan Cohn at New Republic was leaked a report that the House's public plan would reduce the cost of the bill by roughly $150 billion. The official bill has been out for days and the CBO must have evaluated the potential savings from the public plan. Yet no estimates have been released. Someone is purposely hiding the cost savings from the public plan.

Why would anyone keep the cost savings from the House's public option secret?

One likely possibility is that they are preparing to substantially change the public option to gain the support of more conservative Democrats. Ryan Grim reported that some blue dogs were working to replace the House's public plan with the Senate HELP committee's. The CBO projects that the HELP public plan would not be substantially cheaper and would not dramatically effect the overall cost of reform. This is because the HELP public plan does not base its payment rates on Medicare.

The Democratic party leadership may not want it to be publicly know just how much a strong public option would reduce the cost of reform, if they were preparing to compromise on it. If Progressive activists saw the CBO report about the strong public option, they may have vigorously fought a $150 billion sacrifice to gain the support of a few dozen blue dogs. There might be fear that the inter party battle could derail reform.

The only other possibility I can imagine is that Obama does not want estimates about a robust public option released until after the CBO calculated the effect of the new “MedPac on steroids” proposal. The new stronger MedPac should dramatically reduce the cost of Medicare and therefore also reduce the cost of a public option based on Medicare's payment rates. There might be a desire not to attach a number to savings from a strong public option until it is the greatest possible savings.

Either way someone is purposely keeping the CBO's estimates about the House's public option secret.

Updated: The members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus just sent a letter to Nancy Pelosi in which they claim that, "allowing providers to opt out of the public option has already created a loss of $91 billion in savings." This is clear proof that there is a CBO estimate about the savings from the strong public option which has not been released.

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