THE LATEST attack on the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, is the claim that its long-term cost has suddenly spiked from around $1 trillion to $1.7 trillion. Because the new figure is plucked from a March Congressional Budget Office estimate, opponents of the law contend that the agency’s analysis shows it will be a budgetary disaster.
But as with so many assertions by critics of Obamacare, this one is misleading. Or as the CBO puts it: “Some of the commentary . . . has suggested that CBO and [the Joint Committee on Taxation] have changed their estimates of the effects of the ACA to a significant degree. That’s not our perspective.’’
In this case, the increase comes because the CBO added 2022, a year with substantial outlays, to its long-term projection. But $1.7 trillion over 10 years isn’t the bill’s net cost to taxpayers; rather, it’s all the outlays for the coverage provisions, without taking into consideration the cost savings to Medicare and new tax revenues in the bill. When those are factored in, the bill more than pays for itself - a fact that the latest estimates confirm.
CBO has previously estimated that, overall, health care reform will reduce the federal deficit, and that conclusion hasn’t changed. Here’s what has: The agency’s March analysis says the law will shave an additional $48 billion off the deficit between 2012 and 2021. And that bottom-line point is the one that any honest commentary about CBO’s new numbers should underline. It does no good for die-hard opponents to seize on any number, at any time, to illustrate their unsupported view that the bill is a budget-buster.