The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its highly anticipated report on the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA), and it’s going to take health insurance away from millions of needy Americans. At least according to every media outlet and any politician needing a fresh drum to beat.
The CBO found that 23 million Americans would lose their insurance over the next ten years under the ACHA. The CBO also found that premiums would rise, particularly in states that choose to opt out of Obamacare regulations.
As for the cost, the CBO found that the ACHA would reduce the deficit by $119 billion over ten years. This figure is particularly good news to congressional Republicans, as Senate rules require at least $2 billion in savings to pass the bill through reconciliation. Democrats would be powerless to filibuster the legislation, as only 51 Republican votes would be needed.
What mainstream news outlets fail to report, however, is that the CBO report isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. (Nor are the two previous paragraphs for that matter.)
That doesn’t stop the ACHA’s detractors from seizing the opportunity to attack.
“The #CBOscore makes it perfectly clear: unless you’re a healthy millionaire, #Trumpcare is a nightmare,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand also took to Twitter to use the CBO to attack the bill. “If the AHCA becomes law, up to 23 million Americans could lose their insurance. Think about that for a second. It’s unacceptable.”
Susan Collins, the moderate Maine Republican, wasted no time in releasing a statement knocking the bill as hurting the most disadvantaged Americans. “Unfortunately, the CBO estimates that 23 million Americans would lose insurance coverage over the next decade,” she said.
Time and again, the CBO releases numbers on major legislation, and one party or another is handed a cudgel it can use to beat the other party over the head. After all, these are hard numbers! Facts! And from a non-partisan office!
For those with memories, however, the CBO report should be met with only the slightest interest, and given little weight.
First of all, the report is scoring a bill that will never see the light of day. The Senate is certain to rewrite much of the bill before it can garner 51 votes.
But more importantly, the CBO is about as reliable as Al Gore’s extended 10 year weather forecast. I’m not even sure they believe it.
Recall the 2010 CBO report on Obamacare. They predicted that 21 million people would enroll in insurance exchanges by 2016. That number was increased to 22 million after the Supreme Court found the Medicaid expansion unconstitutional. By the end of 2016, only 10 million had enrolled in the exchanges, and it was unclear how many of those were originally insured before Obamacare was passed.
The CBO also projected insurers would see huge profits (they’ve lost billions), Medicaid spending would go down (it’s higher), and GDP would grow by an average of 3.2% in the years following Obamacare’s passage (not even close). Forbes published a good summary of the missed forecasts here.
In short, Obamacare projections were a huge bust.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Predicting with any accuracy the individual choices of tens of millions of Americans, each faced with a different set of circumstances, economic incentives, and health status, is the task for only the most foolish or most arrogant.
While the CBO may be a non-partisan office, its task relies on the technocratic and managerial assumptions that underlie every liberal effort at central planning. “If we just pass this law, 21 million more people will have healthcare,” is a common refrain that’s been used to sell Americans one crappy government program after another.
In truth, we are tinkering with a system that comprises one-fifth of the U.S. economy which no one truly understands. Not Paul Ryan. Not Chuck Schumer. Not Donald Trump. And certainly not the CBO.
To be sure, there are issues with the ACHA.
But this CBO report is useless.
Now count how many times you hear the “fact” that Republicans are going to throw 23 million people off of their health insurance.