The CBO’s most recent analysis is out, and it’s not likely to convince wavering House Democrats to jump to the Obamacare side of the fence. Even the Democrats are granting that the latest version of their proposed health care overhaul would cost $69 billion more than the previous version. According to the CBO, this version would siphon even more money out of Medicare, make even further cuts to Medicare Advantage, and levy even higher taxes and fines on the American people.
President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and their allies, are cheerfully citing “ten year” costs of $940,000,000,000.00 — apparently believing this to be a far more palatable figure than $1 trillion. But even this colossal tally is like the introductory price quoted by a cell phone provider. It’s the price before you pay for minutes, fees, and overcharges — and before the price balloons after the introductory offer expires.
For a variety of reasons, this tally doesn’t remotely reflect the bill’s real ten-year costs. First, it includes 2010 as the initial year. As most people are well aware, 2010 has now been underway for some time. Therefore, the CBO would normally count 2011 as the first year of its analysis, just as it counted 2010 as the first year when analyzing the initial House health bill in the middle of 2009. But under strict instructions from Democratic leaders, and over strong objections from Republicans, the CBO dutifully scored 2010 as the first year of the latest version of Obamacare. If the clock were started in 2011, the first full year that the bill could possibly be in effect, the CBO says that the bill’s ten-year costs would be $1.2 trillion.
But even that wouldn’t come close to reflecting the bill’s true costs. The CBO projects that over the next four years, less than two percent of the bill’s alleged “ten year” costs would hit: just $17 billion of the $940 billion in costs that the Democrats are claiming. In fact, the costs through President Obama’s entire presidency, should he be reelected, would be $336 billion. What would the president leave behind for his successor? According to the CBO, he would leave behind costs of $837 billion during his successor’s first term alone. If his successor were to serve a second term, he or she would inherit a cool $2.0 trillion in Obamacare costs — about six times its costs during Obama’s own tenure. This legislation is a ticking time-bomb.
To see the bill’s true first-decade costs, we need to start the clock when the costs would actually start in any meaningful way: in 2014. The CBO says that Obamacare would cost $2.0 trillion in the bill’s real first decade (from 2014 to 2023) — and much more in the decades to come.
But $2.0 trillion wouldn’t be the total ten-year costs. Instead, that would merely be the “gross cost of coverage provisions.” Based on earlier incarnations of the proposed overhaul, the total costs would be about a third higher (the exact number can’t be gleaned from the CBO’s analysis, which is only preliminary and is not a full scoring) — making the total price-tag between $2.5 and $3 trillion over the bill’s real first decade.
How would we pay for all of this? According to the CBO, by diverting $1.1 trillion away from already barely-solvent Medicare and spending it on Obamacare, and by increasing taxes on the American people by over $1 trillion. Among the Medicare cuts would be cuts of $25,000 in Medicare Advantage benefits per enrollee — up from $21,000 in the previous scoring. To be clear, those living in South Florida wouldn’t have to worry about this, as the newly politicized nature of health care would cause them to be exempted. These cuts would affect only less-fortunate seniors, namely those living in just about any other part of the country.
We’d also pay for this through increased deficits. Under strict instructions from the Democrats, the CBO gave Obamacare credit for over $400 billion (from 2014 to 2023) in phony “savings” that would allegedly result from cutting doctor’s payments under Medicare by over 20 percent and never raising them back up. As the CBO notes, one of two things could happen: Congress could either follow through on these severe pay cuts — in which case doctors would view all Medicare patients as if they have the plague — or, Congress could eliminate these pay cuts — as everyone in Washington expects to have happen under the so-called “doc fix” — in which case the CBO projects that this bill would raise deficits by over $100 billion from 2017 to 2019 alone.
So, after racking up higher deficit spending in two years than President Bush (or any other president) did in two terms, President Obama would leave his successor a 12-figure deficit related to Obamacare alone — for the period from 2017 to 2019 alone. That’s according to the CBO.
And what would we get for all of this? The CBO says that health insurance premiums would rise by 10 to 13 percent in the individual market, in relation to current law. The Medicare Chief Actuary says that the percentage of the gross domestic product spent on health care would also rise in relation to current law, increasing from 17 percent today to 21 percent in 2019. And, as the CBO reports in its latest scoring, as of 2019 there would still be 23 million people in America lacking health insurance.
When the House votes on Obamacare, probably this weekend, it will do the following: Most likely all in one motion, it will vote on whether to pass the Senate bill — or, more likely, on whether to “deem” it passed — and on additional language. Should the House pass the Senate bill, it would be enacted the second that it went to the president and his pen touched the page. At that point, the “Cornhusker Kickback,” the “Louisiana Purchase,” “Gator Aid,” and all the rest, would become the law of the land. The additional language would be passed on to the Senate. The new CBO score is for the whole ball of wax — for the Senate bill, which would immediately become law, plus the new language, which wouldn’t. Clear as mud?
Meanwhile, President Obama is continuing to meet with wavering House Democrats, offering them rides on Air Force One and almost unimaginable combinations of other incentives and disincentives. Members of Congress report that, when they sit across from him in close quarters at his invitation, he says to them, “Help me make history.” In Jerry Maguire, the character played by Cuba Gooding Jr. famously says, “Help me help you.” For Obama, it’s “Help me help me.
The latest CBO score should help wavering Democrats to resist the president’s plea and listen anew to the pleas of their constituents. Two trillion dollars is a lot to spend on something that Americans don’t want.