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Reality Check: Desperately Twisting the CBO Analysis on the Deficit

The same defenders of the status quo who recently held up the Congressional Budget Office as the gold standard scramble to undermine their estimates now.
Reality Check

From the very beginning defenders of the status quo have held up the Congressional Budget Office as the gold standard for judging the impact of health reform legislation on the deficit. Indeed, as recently as two weeks ago, when alternative legislation based on insurance industry proposals was introduced, those opponents of real reform boasted of the CBO's declaration that it would cut the deficit by $68 billion over 10 years.

But that was a long time ago (two weeks ago), and now times have changed. Now that the very same CBO has declared that the Senate’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act cuts $130 billion from the deficit, those same defenders of the status quo seem to be saying that the CBO estimate is meaningless.

Their argument claims that because some aspects of the legislation don’t kick in for the first few years, such as the health insurance exchange, the CBO estimate is skewed. Here are the facts:

  • The suggestion that this bill pays for six years of coverage with ten years of pay-fors is simply false: Even in the six-year period when the exchange is operational (2014-2019) the CBO finds that the bill will reduce the deficit by at least $31 billion.
  • The claim that early surpluses mask later deficits is also untrue: In 2019 alone, the bill reduces the deficit by $8 billion, and in the second decade the CBO finds that the bill will continue to reduce the deficit.  
  • Taking the time necessary to launch the health exchange is responsible policy, not a gimmick. Republicans who supported the Medicare Part D program should remember that it took three years to stand up that program.
  • In the run-up to launching the exchange in 2014, the Senate plan takes several important steps to improve the quality and affordability of care, including investments in: tax credits for small businesses, a high risk pool, reinsurance, and prevention programs and our health care workforce, along with saving seniors thousands on prescription drug costs.

No matter how you try to twist or distort its analysis, the Congressional Budget Office has confirmed that the Senate Health Bill is a solidly fiscally responsible approach to health reform.