Democrats played with the numbers in order to produce the result they wanted. If the bill had increased the deficit, it would have been unable to proceed under the Byrd reconciliation rule. So they went fishing for the perfect schedule of taxes and spending, fees, restrictions, and subsidies. And they found it. The problem? "The CBO process has now been so thoroughly gamed that it's useless," says Megan McArdle.
Health care reform is going to wind up being tremendously expensive. As Philip Klein notes: "Democrats have maintained the strategy of delaying the major spending provisions until 2014 to create the appearance that the bill is cheaper over the CBO's ten year budget window, from 2010 through 2019. In this version, the bill spends $17 billion in the first four years, while the remaining $923 billion, or 98 percent, is spent in the next six years."
Klein also produces this helpful chart. See if you can spot the trend: