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Why healthcare reform is still alive, despite initial cost estimates

Dire pronouncements aside, the process is just getting started, with legislation at a formative stage and Obama yet to offer his plan.

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Sen. Mike Enzi, the ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, sits among copies of the health care reform bill and its amendments on June 17, before its markup hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Charles Dharapak/AP/File

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Cable news is already asking: “Is President Obama’s healthcare reform dead?”

This comes after Sunday talk show interviews with senators sounding doubtful notes – most sensationally, the statement by GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina calling cost estimates for Democratic plans a “death blow to a government-run healthcare plan.”

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California also raised eyebrows Sunday when she said that Mr. Obama may not have enough votes in the Senate to pass healthcare reform – a stunning statement given the Democrats’ large majority.

But the reality, budget experts say, is that healthcare reform is not dead – it’s just getting started. In fact, the White House has not even put out its own health reform proposal yet. The cost estimates that senators have been reacting to are not official. They’re preliminary estimates based on legislation as drafted. And one estimate – the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scoring of legislation from the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) chaired by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts – is based on just part of the committee’s plan.

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