House Health Bill to CBO By Friday

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) says that he intends to submit a health care reform bill written by House Democrats to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) by Friday for an evaluation.

The CBO is the official Congressional scorekeeper. An analysis of the health care reform is essential so lawmakers know how much the legislation costs and whether the bill is budget-neutral.

Rangel’s pronouncement comes just moments after he completed a closed-door meeting with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT). Shortly after Rangel concluded his chat with Baucus, the CBO announced that Baucus’s health care reform bill would slice the U.S. budget deficit by $81 billion over a decade. The CBO study also announced that under the Baucus bill, 94 percent of the U.S. population would now be covered by health insurance, compared to 83 percent today.

“This bill is paid for, despite implications to the contrary,” Baucus said.

Congressional leaders have fought to craft House and Senate health care reform bills that do not add to the deficit.

“It has to add up to zero so that it is deficit-neutral and there is no additional debt heaped on our children,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

On Thursday, House Democrats are expected to discuss potential “pay-fors” in their health care reform bill.

“Everything will be done by tomorrow,” Rangel said.

It is likely to take the CBO a week to ten days to study or “score” the House health care reform bill. The House is expected to forge ahead on its legislation once the CBO issues its analysis.

But there’s a question in the House as to how many Democratic votes the leadership wins or loses with various plans.

“It may look like we’re in charge, but the votes are in charge,” Rangel added wryly.