The Number: Why Obama Has A Better Chance At Universal Health Care Than Clinton

01/19/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Kennedy's office sent out a press release. The New York Times ran a story. The Wonk Room wrote up the findings. This is not how Congressional Budget Office reports are usually greeted. But the release of their two books on health care -- Key Issues in Analyzing Major Health Insurance Proposals and Budget Options, Volume I: Health Care -- is a big deal. Indeed, the books are unprecedented. But the coverage thus far isn't quite getting at their import.

To understand why these books matter, consider the first sentence of my profile of Peter Orszag, former head of the Congressional Budget Office and incoming director of the Office of Management and Budget. It's a quote from Senator Ron Wyden, one of Congress's most involved and aware reformers. "The history of health reform," he says, "is congressmen sending health legislation off to the Congressional Budget Office to die."

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