The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is out with an updated estimate of the effects of H.R.2, the Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act, which passed the House of Representatives on January 19, 2011. According to the CBO, the GOP’s much-touted repeal would “cause a net increase in federal budget deficits of $210 billion over the 2012-2021 period” and increase the number of uninsured by 33 million, “leaving a total of about 57 million nonelderly people” without coverage.
Republicans dismissed the initial estimate by claiming that the deficit reductions from the health law were the result of budget gimmickry and thus, they argued, the deficit increases from repeal are similarly unbelievable. As Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) described it on the Senate floor in early February, “So what I’m saying is, garbage in, garbage out.”
But for those who don’t dismiss uncomfortable reports — after repeatedly praising other more favorable scores from the agency — the new CBO offers its own bit of irony. That is, by repealing the coverage provisions in the Affordable Care Act, the Republicans may be lowering the government’s commitment to health care over the first 10 years, but because they’re also going after the cost control measures in the law (and growing Medicare outlays), they are increasing the government’s involvement over the next 10:
CBO projects that enacting H.R. 2 would reduce the “federal budgetary commitment to health care” by $464 billion over the 2012–2021 period…The net reduction in that commitment would be driven primarily by repeal of the coverage expansions….However, CBO projects that enactment of H.R. 2 would increase the federal budgetary commitment to health care in the decade following the 10-year projection period. The estimated effect in later years differs from that in the first decade because the effects of those provisions that would tend to increase the federal budgetary commitment to health care (such as the increase in Medicare spending and the repeal of the excise tax on insurance policies with relatively high premiums) would grow faster than the effects of provisions that would tend to decrease it (primarily the repeal of the coverage expansions). As with the longer-term estimate of overall budgetary effects, that projection incorporates an assumption that the provisions of current law would otherwise remain unchanged throughout the next two decades.
In other words, Republicans may think they’re preventing a so-called “government takeover” of health care by repealing the law, when in fact they’re putting one off for another 10 years.