According to a Bloomberg report this morning, Senate Republicans are “anxiously” awaiting the Congressional Budget Office’s score of the GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Well, they should relax. For all the hand-wringing going on in Washington over the upcoming health-care vote, there is little reason to give much credence to the CBO’s expected projections. Republicans should ignore the CBO.
The CBO has a history of issuing wildly incorrect estimates pertaining to the cost and impact of Obamacare. In May 2013, CBO projected 22 million people would have exchange coverage in 2016, but only 12.7 million people enrolled in private coverage through the exchanges last year. And with regard to Medicaid expansion, CBO estimated in 2013 that 12 million additional people would be covered by Medicaid in 2016 when the actual number was 14.4 million.
For years, the CBO has gotten Obamacare enrollment projections wrong — by a lot. The numbers speak for themselves.
Oh and by the way, let’s not forget that those were estimates for a bill that had been passed and signed into law years earlier. If the CBO was grossly inaccurate in its estimates then, how can we expect it to be correct when it comes to a bill that hasn’t even been available very long, much less amended on the floor?
There are just too many variables at play. Assessing the impact of health-care policy simply exceeds the capabilities of the CBO. And without a proper assessment of the factors affecting health-care policy, the CBO is far from aiding members of Congress in putting forward substantive reforms. In fact, they are misleading Congress by being more wrong than right.
Looking ahead to November 2018, most Republicans are fully aware of just how consequential the health-care vote will be. As I wrote last week, repeal and replace is of existential importance for the GOP. If we fail to make a move now and push forward in toppling Obamacare and building a market-based health-care system, we will almost certainly lose the midterm elections.
Rolling back years of burdensome health-care policy is going to require patience. Thankfully, Republicans have a president in office who is willing to sign whatever the GOP sends to his desk. And although President Trump may not be familiar with the nuances of health-care policy, he has able advisers by his side with Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
The Senate bill is not a single-shot solution to the nation’s health-care problems, but it is a good first step. Republicans must come to terms with that fact and recognize that the repeal and replace of Obamacare will be a continuing work in progress.
Now is not the time to suddenly become timid and hide behind the CBO. Murmuring about the CBO estimates and projected figures is a very swampish thing to do. There aren’t 10 people in the United States outside the most dedicated Washington swamp creatures who remember what the CBO estimates are 30 minutes after they are released. And if anyone wants to dwell on the CBO projections, they have missed what last year’s elections were really all about.
Let’s face it. We are in a political environment now where whoever is arguing to defend the CBO’s validity on health care is turning voters off. If a senator is going to base his or her vote, either in whole or in part, on something called a “CBO estimate,” voters will think they are part of the problem and simply hiding from doing what needs to be done.
Now is the time for Republicans to remind everyone how their plan is going to make health care better and cheaper. The GOP should purge “CBO” from its vocabulary.