CBO: Obamacare Would Increase National Debt, Spend Medicare 'Savings'

Originally Posted At WeeklyStandard.com
By Jeffrey H. Anderson
January 19, 2011

In the congressional floor debate leading up to the repeal vote, Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) highlighted a point that has generally gone under the radar: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says that Obamacare would increase the national debt. The CBO writes that, by the end of 2019 alone, Obamacare "would amount to a net increase in federal deficits of $226 billion." Elsewhere, in a conclusion that only the truly credulous could accept, the CBO says that Obamacare would decrease deficits. But, as the CBO notes, that's before "factoring in that the [Medicare Hospital Insurance] trust fund would hold more than $358 billion of additional government debt by the end of 2019 compared with its holdings under current law."

But at least Obamacare provides Medicare "savings" that would help fund Medicare over the long-term, right? Presumably that is what Andy Griffith is referring to when he tells us -- in the taxpayer-funded commercials that the Obama administration aims at seniors -- that, under Obamacare, "Medicare just got stronger!" Unfortunately, the CBO writes, "the majority of the [Medicare Hospital Insurance] trust fund savings under PPACA [Obamacare] would be used to pay for other spending and therefore would not enhance the ability of the government to pay for future Medicare benefits." In other words, the money "saved" from Medicare would be spent elsewhere: on Obamacare.

As the website for the House Budget Committee (which Ryan chairs) notes, the $226 billion in projected debt spending doesn't include "the $115 billion needed to implement the law." (That figure of $115 billion is provided by the CBO as well.) So, $115 billion plus $226 billion equals $341 billion that Obamacare would add to the national debt by the end of 2019. 

But, really, that's just the beginning. Alluding to the whole range of Obamacare's double-counting and budgetary gimmickry, the House Budget Committee writes, "Add it up -- $115 billion in discretionary costs, plus $521 billion in double-counting, plus $208 billion for a long-term doc fix (minus the $143 billion of claimed savings) -- and the law would add $701 billion to the deficit over the next ten years." (For a clear and succinct summary of the budgetary gimmicks employed by Obamacare, Ryan's statement at the "health summit" is hard to beat.)

However, even that doesn't take into account the fact that the CBO sounds very skeptical that much of the Medicare "savings" needed to fund Obamacare would ever materialize. And it doesn't take into account the very real potential for exploding deficit spending if more companies than expected drop their employer-provided coverage and dump their employees into Obamacare's government-run, taxpayer-financed "exchanges."

But let's go back to the published CBO estimates. Even under about the rosiest of projections, the CBO says that, before the beginning of the next decade, Obamacare -- if not repealed -- would increase the national debt by $341 billion.


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