Senate Republicans have just released an outstanding chart highlighting the accounting games that Democrats are playing with the costs of their proposed health-care overhaul. The Democrats assert that their Senate bill would cost $848 billion over ten years. But Congressional Budget Office projections show that only 1 percent of those costs would kick in prior to the fifth year of what the Democrats are calling the "first 10 years." In the bill's true first 10 years (2014 to 2023) -- that is, in the first 10 years in which it would be operational to any meaningful extent -- the CBO projects that the bill would cost $1.8 trillion.
But it gets even worse. The CBO doesn't say that the bill's total costs from 2010 to 2019 (99 percent of which would come from 2014-onward) would be $848 billion -- or that its total costs in its real first 10 years (2014 to 2023) would be $1.8 trillion. Rather, it says that these would be the gross costs of the bill's "expansions in insurance coverage." The CBO shows that there are many other costs in the bill as well, including spending related to the CLASS Act, risk-adjustment payments, funding for the government-run "public option" (not a cent of which is included in the figure for "expansions in insurance coverage"), and other new federal spending.
The Senate Republicans' chart demonstrates that the total for all of these costs -- based on CBO projections for the bill's true first 10 years -- is $2.5 trillion. And costs would only skyrocket from there, as the chart's trajectory suggests. In the 5 years to follow (2024-28), spending on "expansions in insurance coverage" alone would be $1.7 trillion, making the bill's total costs in its real first 15 years well over $4 trillion -- based on CBO projections.
The key in all of this, of course, is that the Democrats want everyone to use a "10 year" tally that doesn't remotely represent what Americans would be on the hook for in terms of real 10-year costs. As the Senate GOP chart demonstrates, the bill's true costs in its first 10 years would be about three times what President Obama, Senator Reid, and their allies are disingenuously claiming.
No wonder Robert Samuelson wrote last week in the Washington Post: "The disconnect between what President Obama says and what he's doing is so glaring that most people could not abide it. The president, his advisers and allies have no trouble. But reconciling blatantly contradictory objectives requires them to engage in willful self-deception, public dishonesty, or both."
The Senate Republicans' chart depicts the degree of this deception.