CBO: By the Way, We Can No Longer Score Obamacare's Fiscal Impact

Guy Benson

6/5/2014 1:35:00 PM - Guy Benson


We've been buried in the Bergdahl story all week, but this nugget is worth coming up for air to cover. By way of background, on the eve of Democrats' party-line Obamacare vote in 2010, they used a cynically manufactured Congressional Budget Office (CBO) "score" to provide jittery members a fig leaf with which to justify an 'aye' tally. The report they hailed purported to show that Obamacare would cost less than a trillion dollars and that it would help reduce deficits. Republicans argued that it was preposterous to suggest that the creation of a brand new, massive entitlement program could possibly save the government money, but triumphant Democrats waved around the CBO document as the gospel truth. Several months ago, CBO updated some of its findings, averring that the law's price tag over its first true decade was more than $2 trillion, and concluding that the law has slowed economic growth, impeded hiring, and will drastically reduce the US workforce. The Left spun like crazy and gnashed their teeth, but the analysis was there in black and white, and this time it actually matched most Americans' intuitions about the law. How will Obamacare impact America's fiscal health moving forward? CBO has quietly announced that they no longer have confidence that they can answer that question with a reasonable degree of accuracy, so they're essentially giving up on the task. Roll Call has the story:


Four years after enactment of what is widely viewed as President Barack Obama’s key legislative achievement, however, it’s unclear whether the health care law is still on track to reduce the deficit or whether it may actually end up adding to the federal debt. In fact, the answer to that question has become something of a mystery. In its latest report on the law, the Congressional Budget Office said it is no longer possible to assess the overall fiscal impact of the law. That conclusion came as a surprise to some fiscal experts in Washington and is drawing concern. And without a clear picture of the law’s overall financing, it could make it politically easier to continue delaying pieces of it, including revenue raisers, because any resulting cost increases might be hidden...The CBO based its estimate on the assumption that the law, which included hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of Medicare cuts and tax increases to pay for health care subsidies, would be implemented as written. Now, after a chaotic start and a series of delays or adjustments in various provisions of the act, including an employer mandate that was expected to bring in new tax revenue, it’s unclear to what extent those promised savings are being realized.


This is a neat trick, isn't it? Step one: Use a carefully-gamed CBO score to help pass your giant law over the will of the public. Step two: Issue so many on-the-fly changes, revisions and waivers to the resulting monstrosity that the CBO throws in the towel on trying to track the real data, thus undercutting a key nonpartisan group's efforts to evaluate the veracity of your previous claims. Quite the scheme. Meanwhile, Dan told you yesterday about the Associated Press scoop that roughly one-fourth of Obamacare exchange "enrollees" are facing discrepancies that could force them to pay more, or result in dropped coverage. The Hill's write-up notes that, "the inconsistencies point to the possibility that many enrollees obtained coverage or subsidies without being eligible." It also looks as though nearly half of the affected cases pertain to immigration and citizenship status. Staring at the prospect of two million so-called "enrollees" getting dropped from their plans or sent larger bills, Allahpundit fully expects Obama to wave his magic wand and postpone some of that unpleasantness -- which would undoubtedly boost the price tag of the whole operation...if that sort of thing were still being calculated by government bookkeepers, that is. Does anyone doubt he'll do so, based on all available evidence? Also, Obamacare's Medicaid expansion is going about as well as one might expect. Though an astonishing number of Americans have now signed up for the (empirically failing) program overall, millions of applications remain stuck in logistical limbo, thanks to the ongoing trainwreck that is the back end of Healthcare.gov. For privately-insured consumers, the expected "drumbeat" of proposed premium increases -- many of the double-digit variety -- continues apace, with insurers in more states previewing their coming rate hikes. A new Kaiser poll once again shows that more Americans have been hurt than helped by Obamacare, by a double-digit margin. Here's how the law is impacting small businesses in North Carolina:



Will Sen. Kay Hagan answer questions about this, or will she again run away in terror? She and her ilk are likely just as skittish about the president's job approval numbers, petrified that they might get swept away by his undertow. Poll after poll after poll shows heavy public dissatisfaction over the VA scandal (which seems like a distant memory now that the Bergdahl story slammed into DC like a wrecking ball), with the Obama administration held at least partially responsible by most Americans. According to CNN's latest numbers, he isn't faring well on virtually any front at all, failing to hit 50 percent support on any issue polled:



He's in the 30's on every topic, with the lone exception of foreign affairs, where he stands at a robust (-17). And this poll was in the field before it became publicthat Obama negotiated with the Taliban to release five hardcore jihadist commanders in exchange for a US Army hostage, who stands accused of desertion, and worse. Gulp.