Our View: Obamacare darkens U.S. fiscal outlook
A new study has concluded that President Barack Obama's health care law, which the Supreme Court could wholly or partially invalidate within a few months, would add $530 billion to the federal budget deficit by 2021. Government debt already is $15.6 trillion, and will be trillions higher by that date, even without the added burden of Obamacare.
The study is by Charles Blahous, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and is titled, "The Fiscal Consequences of the Affordable Care Act." Blahous is a conservative. But in 2010, President Obama appointed him a Republican trustee for Medicare and Social Security.
The study's summary: "Supporters argued that this comprehensive health care reform would deliver a much-needed correction to the government's unsustainable fiscal outlook and would benefit the country's overall fiscal situation. However, between now and 2021, the ACA is expected to add as much as $530 billion to federal deficits while increasing spending by more than $1.15 trillion. Despite the fondest hopes from its supporters, the passage of the ACA unambiguously darkens a dim fiscal picture."
Backers of Obamacare attacked Blahous' study. Jonathan Chait wrote in New York magazine: "He's assuming that Medicare's deficits will automatically go away. Therefore, the roughly $500 billion in Medicare savings that Obama used to help cover the uninsured is money that Blahous assumes the government wouldn't have spent anyway."
Well, Medicare itself cost just $3 billion when it started in 1966. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' CPI Inflation Calculator, that should have risen to $20 billion in 2010. But because of cost inefficiencies and new care and coverage mandates added by Congress, the actual price tag in 2010 was $560 billion - 28 times as much.
"While the Obama administration is all over the airwaves today trying to discredit Charles Blahous' new study, he is a respected scholar whose statistics, I believe, are accurate," said Sally Pipes, president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute in San Francisco and an expert on medical finances. Her new book is, "The Pipes Plan: The Top 10 Ways to Dismantle and Replace Obamacare."
She added that the president had two goals: "bending the cost curve down and achieving universal coverage. Neither goal is going to be met. For obvious political reasons the administration does not like to focus on the true cost. Remember, the president wanted a health care bill that cost no more than $900 billion over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office recently revised upward its original estimate of $940 billion over 10 years to $1.76 trillion from 2012-22. That is almost double the original CBO estimate that was released following the president signing the bill into law on March 23, 2010."
It's just what we should expect from a 2,700-page legislative monstrosity. When the administration was making oral arguments in defense of the law before the U.S. Supreme Court last week, Justice Steven Breyer commented, "I haven't read every word of that, I promise. So what do you propose that we do, other than spend a year reading all this?" And he's a Democrat, appointed by President Bill Clinton, likely to approve the law's contested mandate that all Americans obtain government-approved health insurance or pay a penalty.
His words were an echo of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, when as House speaker she was ramming the legislation through Congress in 2010, she said, "We must pass Obamacare to find out what's in it."