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ACA Revisionism
CBO: We Can't Score Obamacare Anymore

Rarely has a measly footnote been so significant. In April, the Congressional Budget Office published an updated look at the ACA’s coverage provisions (which include the subsidies, the employer and individual mandates, and several other measures). It found that the law would save the U.S. even more money than initially expected. The CBO forecasted that the revenue from the penalties that the mandates exacted would drop, but the cost of subsides would fall even more. But that wasn’t the most interesting thing about the CBO report.

Reporters belatedly combing through the document brought to light a footnote containing a startling admission: Although the CBO has revised its estimate of the budget effects of the coverage provisions, it can no longer measure the impact of the law as a whole. In the CBO’s words:

CBO and JCT can no longer determine exactly how the provisions of the ACA that are not related to the expansion of health insurance coverage have affected their projections of direct spending and revenues. The provisions that expand insurance coverage established entirely new programs or components of programs that can be isolated and reassessed. In contrast, other provisions of the ACA significantly modified existing federal programs and made changes to the Internal Revenue Code. Isolating the incremental effects of those provisions on previously existing programs and revenues four years after enactment of the ACA is not possible.

A translation for non-bureaucrats: We’re flying blind here.

The ACA is more than just an insurance expansion program; it also contains provisions that affect hospitals, the tax code, and other federal programs. In this footnote, the CBO is now saying that it cannot figure out how those other parts of the law affect the budget—and thus that we don’t know how the law as a whole does either.

Even more importantly, some of the CBO’s uncertainty is caused by Obama Administration decisions to change, delay, or abandon parts of the law during implementation. First came the news that census questions were altered, making it far more difficult for us to determine whether the ACA has reduced the numbers of the uninsured, and now there’s this. As time goes on, we’re becoming less and less capable of answering basic questions about whether the ACA is working.

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  • lord acton

    Quelle suprise.

  • Boritz

    Reminiscent of Beavis and Butthead not being able to score. That was due to their own stupidity though, not that of others.

  • S.C. Schwarz

    Working as intended.

    This will not prevent the left from taking credit for every good thing that happens in health care for the next 30 years. If anything bad happens it will be Bush’s fault.

  • Bruce

    Maybe the bureaucrats at the CBO were overcome by conscience and rather than continuing to lie about it as being anything other than a calamity, said they can’t score it.

  • Andrew Allison

    One of the lesser-known but more applicable quotes of the 1st Lord Acton (he of “power corrupts . . .) in this context is, “And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that.” Does anybody seriously believe that the CBO can’t measure (as opposed to being prohibited from reporting) the budgetary cost of ACA? That the administration really can’t come up with the data regarding ACA enrollment? That the IRS can’t compare income reported on a tax return with that reported when applying for an ACA subsidy? That the Moon really is made of green cheese? Our government is not telling us the truth.

    • B-Sabre

      I think they are admitting that, not only are there too many moving parts to track (too many variables), the Administration itself is adding to the confusion by waiving, delaying, modifying or ignoring the provisions and requirements of the ACA as it sees fit.

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