The Congressional Budget Office has spoken: We can afford universal health care. Sure, we should have known that all along, writes Paul Krugman of the New York Times. Every other advanced country has it and spends less than we do. But last week the notoriously tight-pursed CBO scored a proposal from Ted Kennedy’s HELP committee that would insure just about everyone, and offer a public option. Total cost over the next decade? $597 billion.
Add in the expense of covering the poor and near-poor, which HELP suggests Medicaid handle, and the total increases to between $1 trillion and 1.3 trillion, a relatively small number—4% of the $33 trillion the government expects we'll spend on health care in the next decade—that can be offset by common-sense cost-cutting like stopping Medicare overpayments to private insurers. So-called “centrist” senators, most of them Democrat, can no longer argue that reform is unaffordable. If a few more of them grow a conscience, “HELP will be on the way.”