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CBO in process of updating Obamacare estimates

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Congressional Budget Office bean counters are taking a fresh look at President Obama’s national health care law, and will have updated figures on key provisions in March, director Doug Elmendorf testified this week in Congress.

Though he stopped short of saying there would be a full re-scoring of the law.

Several factors could make the health care law significantly more costly than advertised at the time of passage in March 2010. For instance, the law was crafted in a way to delay enactment of the major spending provisions until 2014, to make the legislation appear cheaper under the CBO’s 10-year budget window (then 2010 to 2019).  Now, the budget window has moved up to 2022, meaning it takes into account an extra three years of full enactment.

When Elmendorf testified before the House Budget Committee on Wednesday, Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif., asked him out the cost estimates for Medicaid spending and health insurance exchange subsidies would be effected now that CBO’s long-term unemployment forecast has deteriorated. Campbell noted that at the time of its original estimate, CBO was expecting an unemployment rate of 4.9 percent in 2014, but now that’s projected to be 8.7 percent.

“That piece alone would raise the cost of the Affordable Care Act,” Elmendorf said, referring to the formal name for the legislation. “I don’t know by how much.”

Elmendorf said the CBO would update its estimates of the cost of coverage expansions under the health care law.

On Thursday, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., also pressed Elmendorf on health care cost estimates, arguing that the number of employers who would be dumping workers on government-run exchanges and simply paying a fine would be higher than originally projected.

Elmendorf responded that in addition to updating the coverage provisions for March, the CBO was working on a separate analysis that would contain a range of estimates about how the cost of the health care law would be affected if certain assumptions were wrong one way or the other.

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Philip Klein

Commentary Editor
The Washington Examiner