The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has been a constant thorn in the side of congressional Republicans, repeatedly pointing out that Trumpcare would have a disastrous impact on the American health care system. The most recent version of Trumpcare, according to the CBO, would strip 22 million people of coverage by 2026.
In an apparent response to this political black eye, four Republican congressmen introduced legislation on Monday that would eliminate the CBO’s Budget Analysis Division and reduce the office’s staff by 89 employees.
Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), the amendment’s lead sponsor, claims that CBO too often releases inaccurate predictions, such as when it “overestimated by millions the number of people who would enroll in the Obamacare exchanges.” Under Griffith’s amendment, which is co-sponsored by Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH), Mark Meadows (R-NC), and Scott Perry (R-PA), the CBO would become “an aggregator of predictions made by third-party public policy groups across the political spectrum.”
So, instead of actually providing its own impartial advice on the impact of certain legislation, the CBO would simply relay what outside entities say about the bill, including self-interested groups with a political ax to grind.
It should be noted, while Griffith is correct that the CBO did underestimate the number of people who would enroll in the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges, it outperformed other independent groups examining the impact of Obamacare — arriving at more accurate predictions than “the Obama administration’s own figures, and those of the RAND Corporation, the Urban Institute and the Lewin Group, a health industry consulting firm.”
The reality is that any analysis that requires an agency to predict how millions of people will behave years into the future will necessarily have a large margin of error. In the case of Obamacare, the CBO overestimated the number of people who would enroll through the law’s exchanges, and underestimated the number who would enroll through its Medicaid expansion.
Nevertheless, CBO’s top line estimates regarding the impact of the Affordable Care Act were pretty close to on the mark. In 2012, after the Supreme Court effectively rewrote the law to allow many states to reject the Medicaid expansion, the CBO predicted that “the number of nonelderly (under age 65) people lacking insurance would drop to 30 million in 2016.” In reality, the number dropped to 27.9 million.