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Republicans ask CBO for Obamacare score after mandate delay

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House Republicans have asked the Congressional Budget Office for a new cost estimate of President Obama’s health care law in light of recent regulations that both suspend the law’s employer mandate and remove key anti-fraud safeguards.

“Chairman Ryan’s staff asked CBO to evaluate the impact of the administration’s recent decisions,” House Budget Committee spokesman William Allison told the Washington Examiner Monday. “CBO will need time to complete this request. And Congress needs more time to sort out the effects of what amounts to a startling admission by the administration: Obamacare is unworkable. But all Americans should get more time. Workers and families should get relief from the law. Policymakers should get a chance to start over and fix what’s broken in health care.”

On July 5, the Department of Health and Human Services released a new regulation relieving states of the responsibility of verifying the information provided to them by individuals seeking federal subsidies for health insurance. Families and individuals buying health insurance through an Obamacare exchange could claim less income than they really earn and thus receive higher federal subsidies than they otherwise would be entitled to. Such fraud could only drive up the cost of Obamacare.

On July 3, the Treasury Department announced that it would not be enforcing Obamacare’s $2,000 or $3,000 penalty on larger employers for every employee that they employ but do not offer health insurance to. The fiscal impact of this policy is less clear.

If many employers choose not to offer health insurance to employees (either by cutting back hours and making more employees part-time or by not offering health care entirely), the federal government would have to spend more money on Medicaid and insurance subsidies. However, the government would also collect more in taxes as firms would raise employee pay to compensate for the loss of health care benefits and fewer workers would be able to take advantage of the tax exemption for employer-based health insurance.

One CBO estimate from March 2012 found that if employers dumped 7 million more Americans off their current coverage, the government would spend $53 billion more on Medicaid and $165 billion more on subsidies. But the government would also collect $153 billion more in taxes.

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