Right-Wing Media Falsely Claim Cost Of Health Care Law Has Doubled


Right-wing media are falsely claiming that a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) shows that the cost of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has doubled since CBO's estimate in 2010. In fact, CBO's analysis actually showed that the insurance coverage provisions of the health care law will cost less than originally estimated.

Right-Wing Media Claim CBO Report Estimated That Cost Of Health Care Law Has Doubled

Fox's Doocy: Health Care Law "Is Going To Wind Up Costing Us Double, At Least." On the March 16 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy and Fox News legal analyst Peter Johnson Jr. both claimed that the CBO report showed that the ACA "is going to wind up costing us double, at least." From Fox & Friends:

DOOCY: One hefty price tag. A new report from the Congressional Budget Office, the CBO, estimating that President Obama's health care law will cost about twice as much as he originally promised. But that it will actually now reduce the nation's overall deficit over time, they say.


JOHNSON: What the president was talking about and we heard it time and time again, press conference, speech, $900 billion. So in a couple of years now, it's skyrocketed, with new estimates out to 2022 to almost $1.8 trillion.


DOOCY: You know, this is such a big story, as you look at the national debt and you're talking about the deficit being reduced. This is such a big story that this is going to wind up costing us double at least, although you project quadruple the amount that we were promised and a lot more people will not be insured. And yet the mainstream media, nary a word. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 3/16/12]

Fox Nation: "Obamacare Twice As Expensive At $900 BILLION Price Tag?" A March 15 Fox Nation post highlighted a FoxNews.com article about the CBO report under the headline, "Obamacare Twice as Expensive at $900 BILLION Price Tag?" From Fox Nation:

[Fox Nation, 3/15/12]


Washington Examiner: Heath Care Law Cost Is "More Than Double What Obama Advertised." In a March 13 post on The Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog, senior editorial writer Philip Klein wrote:

President Obama's national health care law will cost $1.76 trillion over a decade, according to a new projection released today by the Congressional Budget Office, rather than the $940 billion forecast when it was signed into law.

Democrats employed many accounting tricks when they were pushing through the national health care legislation, the most egregious of which was to delay full implementation of the law until 2014, so it would appear cheaper under the CBO's standard ten-year budget window and, at least on paper, meet Obama's pledge that the legislation would cost "around $900 billion over 10 years." When the final CBO score came out before passage, critics noted that the true 10 year cost would be far higher than advertised once projections accounted for full implementation.


Given that in 2022, the last year available, the gross cost of the coverage expansions are $265 billion, we're likely looking at about $2 trillion over the first decade, or more than double what Obama advertised. [The Washington Examiner, 3/14/12]

Gateway Pundit: "Obamacare Will Cost Twice As Much As Promised." In a March 14 Gateway Pundit post, conservative blogger Jim Hoft wrote:

In March 2010 leading democrats and their lackeys in the state-run media were "just giddy" to report that they crunched some numbers and found the nationalized health care bill they were pushing would reduce the deficit by $138 billion.

It was a lie. Democrats knew it was a lie...

But, after several backroom deals they rammed the bill through Congress anyway.


Americans are right to be concerned about our country's enormous debt, especially given the Congressional Budget Office's recent announcement that the health care bill will not in fact provide the deficit reductions the president promised. Republicans are committed to addressing Americans' concerns with fiscally responsible policies that will create jobs, grow the economy, and reduce our nations deficit.

This week the CBO released some revised numbers and the true cost of Obamacare is twice what we were promised. [Gateway Pundit, 3/14/12]

In Fact, CBO Projected ACA's Coverage Provisions Will Actually Cost Less Than Previously Estimated

CBO: Insurance Coverage Provisions Will Be "About $50 Billion Less Than" Previous Estimate. In the March 13 companion blog to CBO's 2012 estimate of PPACA's insurance coverage provisions, CBO reported:

The Estimated Net Cost of the Insurance Coverage Provisions Is Smaller Than Estimated in March 2011

CBO and JCT now estimate that the insurance coverage provisions of the ACA will have a net cost of just under $1.1 trillion over the 2012-2021 period-about $50 billion less than the agencies' March 2011 estimate for that 10-year period.


Gross Costs Are Higher, but Offsetting Budgetary Effects Are Also Higher

The current estimate of the gross costs of the coverage provisions -- $1,496 billion through 2021 -- is about $50 billion higher than last year's projection; however, the other budgetary effects of those provisions, which partially offset those gross costs, also have increased in CBO's and JCT's estimates -- to $413 billion -- leading to the small decrease in the net 10-year tally.

Over the 10-year period from 2012 through 2021, enactment of the coverage provisions of the ACA was projected last March to increase federal deficits by $1,131 billion, whereas the March 2012 estimate indicates that those provisions will increase deficits by $1,083 billion. [CBO, 3/13/12, emphasis in original]

Reuters: "The Estimated Costs" Of ACA's Insurance Coverage "Have Been Reduced By $48 Billion Through 2021." From a March 13 Reuters article:

The estimated net costs of expanding healthcare coverage under President Barack Obama's landmark restructuring have been reduced by $48 billion through 2021, though fewer people would be covered under private insurance plans, a new analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office showed on Tuesday.


By reducing the estimated net 2012-2021 costs to $1.083 trillion from $1.131 trillion a year ago, the CBO report could help Democrats blunt some of the criticism over the high costs of extending coverage to some 47 million uninsured Americans, as they try to tout savings elsewhere in the law.

These cost reductions are largely due to lower estimates for subsidies and tax credits associated with the law's planned insurance exchanges for individual coverage. [Reuters, 3/13/12]

CBSNews.com: "CBO Lowers Health Reform Cost Estimate." A March 14 CBSNews.com article noted:

Congressional economists are estimating somewhat lower costs for covering the uninsured under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law, as well as slightly fewer people gaining coverage.

Assuming the Supreme Court does not overturn the law, the Congressional Budget Office would reduce the number of uninsured by 30 million in 2016, or 2 million fewer people than estimated last year. Total costs from 2012-2021 are about $50 billion lower than estimated last year. That's due to a combination of factors, including overall health care costs rising more slowly than in the recent past. [CBSNews.com, 3/14/12]

New Republic Senior Editor Jonathan Cohn: "No, Obamacare's Cost Didn't Just Double." In a March 15 post on The New Republic, Jonathan Cohn wrote:

If CBO had truly determined that health care reform's cost will be twice the original estimates, it would be huge news. But CBO said nothing of the sort.


In the this latest estimate, CBO extends its projection out one more year, to capture the expenses from 2012 to 2022, in order to capture a full decade. In 2022, CBO says, the gross cost of coverage expansion will be $265 billion. Add that to the $1.496 and you get (with rounding) the $1.76 trillion -- the one in the press releases and the Fox story.

But there is nothing new or surprising about this. It's only slightly more money than the previous year's outlays. The ten-year number seems to jump only because the time frame for the estimate has moved, dropping one year, 2011, and adding another, 2022. Obamacare has virtually no outlays in 2011, because the Medicaid expansion and subsidies don't start up until 2014, which means the shifting time frame drops a year of no implementation and adds one of full implementation.


The real news of the CBO estimate is that, according to its models, health care reform is going to save even more taxpayer dollars than previously thought.[The New Republic, 3/15/12]

Mother Jones' Kevin Drum: "The Cost Of Obamacare Has Gone Down, Not Up." In a March 15 Mother Jones post, Kevin Drum wrote:

Republicans rushed to the microphones today to announce that new projections show that Obamacare will break the bank. In fact, says Fox News, a CBO reports says that it will cost "twice as much as the original $900 billion price tag."

You will be unsurprised to learn that this is not true.


As Table 1 shows, if you compare the original 2012-21 time period, CBO's new estimate of the cost of Obamacare is $48 billion less than it was last year. (The report estimates only the cost of expanded insurance coverage under Obamacare, not the entire set of costs and revenues. So the total impact on the deficit hasn't yet been updated.) [Mother Jones, 3/15/12]

Klein: CBO Report "Shows The Net Cost Of The Coverage Provisions Will Be About $50 Billion Less Than Previously Estimated." In a March 15 post on The Washington Post's Wonkblog, Ezra Klein noted that those claiming PPACA costs will increase "didn't read this analysis closely." From The Washington Post:

You'll notice something about the above list: It appears to add up to a net reduction in the cost of the health-care law. And, sure enough, here's CBO: "the insurance coverage provisions of the ACA will have a net cost of just under $1.1 trillion over the 2012-2021 period--about $50 billion less than the agencies' March 2011 estimate." You would get the opposite impression reading Ransom.


But those other parts of the bill aren't a secret. They're mentioned right there in the analysis. Quoting again: "CBO and JCT have previously estimated that the ACA will, on net, reduce budget deficits over the 2012-2021 period; that estimate of the overall budgetary impact of the ACA has not been updated."

It's easy to do at least some of the update ourselves. This analysis shows the net cost of the coverage provisions will be about $50 billion less than previously estimated. That implies the law will cut more, not less, from the deficit than previous estimates suggested. In other words, this estimate says the bill is more, not less, fiscally responsible than was previously reported.[The Washington Post, 3/15/12]

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