Fox Pushes Bogus Charge That The Affordable Care Act Will Not Decrease The Deficit

Fox & Friends hosted serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey to promote the bogus claim that President Obama's health care reform legislation will increase the federal deficit by causing health care costs to balloon.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will decrease the deficit and that repealing the act will increase the deficit. However, on Fox & Friends, McCaughey, a former New York Lieutenant Governor, claimed that such deficit reduction estimates are wrong.

McCaughey was echoing her recent Wall Street Journal op-ed in which she claimed that estimates by the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) showed that estimates that the ACA would reduce the deficit are a “shell game.”

But McCaughey's claims are based on cherry-picking and distortions of the CMS data.

McCaughey suggested that, based on CMS projections, the ACA will cause health expenditures to “rise to 19.6% in 2021 from 17.9% in 2010,” which in turn will cause federal spending to increase. But, in 2009, a year before the ACA was passed, CMS' ten-year projections estimated health expenditures in 2019 being 19.3% of GDP, their 2011 projections, a year after the ACA was passed, shows the 2019 estimate at 18.9%, or 0.4% less than their estimate from before the ACA.

And CBO has already taken into account the fact that the ACA will cause government spending on health care to increase. In its latest estimate on the cost of repealing the law, CBO stated: “The ACA contains a set of provisions designed to expand health insurance coverage, which, on net, are projected to cost the government money.” The CBO then adds that these increases in government spending are more than offset by other provisions in the law, meaning that, on balance, the ACA lowers the deficit.

McCaughey's final piece of evidence is based on pure speculation: “Finally, ObamaCare's so-called Cadillac tax -- a whopping 40% tax on health plans valued at more than $27,500 for a family of four -- may never be collected.” To back up her claim, McCaughey only offers this:

But powerful unions pushed Congress to both delay the tax to 2018 and to exempt union workers in “high risk” occupations, including construction workers and longshoremen.

It's hard to imagine that a future president and Congress would have more fortitude to impose this tax than the health law's namesake. Yet delaying the tax even four additional years, according to CBO figures, would entirely wipe out the “surplus” the Democrats are bragging about.

While McCaughey is right about both the delay and the high-risk profession adjustment, there's simply no evidence to support the baseless speculation that the tax will not be implemented and collected as the law mandates. But baseless speculation and false claims about health care reform is McCaughey's normal means of attack