Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Conservatives lying about ObamaCare costs

Last week, the Congressional Budget Office released a report projecting the costs of ObamaCare over the next 10 years. In 2010, 10 year projections ran from 2010 to 2019, which included 4 years of minimal spending as the exchanges, subsidies and expanded Medicaid which all get up and running in 2014. The new projection runs from 2012 through 2022 (11 years total), with only 2 of those years, 2012/2013, being before the 2014 start date. Not surprisingly, the headline cost of the new projection is significantly higher, given the additional years of actual ObamaCare, as opposed to cheap years before the programs actually start.

The total projected cost in the new analysis (.pdf, Table 2) is $1.76 trillion. In 2010 (.pdf, Table 4), the cost was $940 billion. Here's a graph I made from the CBO numbers that includes every year included in both analyses:

The blue 2010 projection includes those two tiny bars for 2010 and 2011, along with the rest of the decade from 2012-2019. The red 2012 projection includes the same 2012-2019 stretch along with those three big bars for 2020-2022. 91% of the entire cost difference between the two projections is entirely attributable to the different years included in the analyses.

To get a true sense for how the new projection changes the expected costs, let's focus in on the years included in both analyses:

The total costs for these years included in both analyses increased from $933 billion in 2010 to $1.01 trillion in 2012, an increase of $77 billion, or 8.3% of the originally projected cost for these years. Most of this increase is due to more people being poor as a result of the recession and slow recovery and needing government help to afford insurance.

Conservatives have greeted the new report not with reasonable but answerable concerns that the cost has gone up by 8.3%, but to say that "costs have almost doubled". There are multiple writers from multiple organizations making this claim. Even Rep. Tom Price, the #4-ranked GOP house leader, parrots the claim.

This claim is amazingly dishonest. It is comparing apples (2010-2019, 10 years, including 4 with minimal costs) to oranges (2012-2022, 11 years, including only 2 with minimal costs) and asserts that we were somehow misled during the initial passage.

Our system only works if voters are given the information to make decisions on the issues of the day. If one side or the other is willing to make ridiculous assertions like this, the whole thing doesn't work. There are plenty of legitimate criticisms of ObamaCare. The "costs have doubled!" lie isn't one of them.

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