Healthcare reform: Strong opinions on all sides of the debate
A healthcare bill drafted by the US Senate Finance Committee would expand insurance coverage but also cut the federal deficit, budget analysts say.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the bill would cost $829bn (£517bn) over 10 years but also result in reducing the deficit by $81bn.
This analysis is in line with President Barack Obama's own estimates.
His efforts to overhaul healthcare have been grinding through Congress amid arguments over costs and scope.
The finance committee will now vote on its bill next Tuesday, Senate leaders have announced.
The analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) was a key test, correspondents say, as drafting healthcare reform that does not add to the national debt has been a huge challenge.
If the CBO estimates had been much higher, it would have been a big blow to efforts by Mr Obama and the Democrats to have healthcare reform passed by the end of the year.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concluded that the legislation drafted by the influential finance panel would cost $829bn by 2019 but that spending cuts elsewhere and new revenue would actually result in lowering the federal deficit by $81bn over the 2010-2019 period.
The CBO also estimates that the number of people who do not have health insurance would be reduced by about 29 million, leaving about 25 million people uninsured.
About one-third of these would be illegal immigrants who are ineligible for insurance.
"Our balanced approach to health reform has paid off yet again," said Sen Max Baucus, who chairs the Finance Committee.
But Republicans say the final draft which will be voted on is likely to be very different and more expensive than this version.
"The real bill will be another 1,000-page, trillion-dollar experiment," Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said.
The finance committee's bill must be combined with the Senate Health Committee's bill, and go before the full Senate for a vote, where it is not guaranteed to pass, as it needs all the Democrats, two independents and one Republican to vote in favour.
If it passes the Senate, it will be combined with the House of Representatives' version by a conference committee and go back before both houses for final approval.
All of the different versions of the bill are broadly similar in the scope of their reforms:
- toughen regulations on health insurers
- mandate all Americans to get insurance
- offer subsidies to the less well-off and set up health insurance exchanges for people without employer-sponsored coverage, to help them choose between different options.
Lawmakers are divided, however, over whether people with access to the exchanges should be allowed to choose a new state-run scheme - the so-called "public option".