The Congressional Budget Office has tried crunching the numbers on Barack Obama’s plan to reform health care, which Obama says will save money and protect the uninsured. The CBO director on his official blog says, “Wrong!” — on both counts. The reform plan will cost more than a trillion dollars over the next decade, and while it will put 39 million people on insurance plans, it will drive off more than 23 million more from their existing plans. The cost doesn’t include Obama’s public plan option, either:
According to our preliminary assessment, enacting the proposal would result in a net increase in federal budget deficits of about $1.0 trillion over the 2010-2019 period. When fully implemented, about 39 million individuals would obtain coverage through the new insurance exchanges. At the same time, the number of people who had coverage through an employer would decline by about 15 million (or roughly 10 percent), and coverage from other sources would fall by about 8 million, so the net decrease in the number of people uninsured would be about 16 million or 17 million.
These new figures do not represent a formal or complete cost estimate for the draft legislation, for several reasons. The estimates provided do not address the entire bill—only the major provisions related to health insurance coverage. Some details have not been estimated yet, and the draft legislation has not been fully reviewed. Also, because expanded eligibility for the Medicaid program may be added at a later date, those figures are not likely to represent the impact that more comprehensive proposals—which might include a significant expansion of Medicaid or other options for subsidizing coverage for those with income below 150 percent of the federal poverty level—would have both on the federal budget and on the extent of insurance coverage.
A net decrease of 16-17 million would still leave about 30 million uninsured, according to the figures thrown around by ObamaCare advocates. It would simply exchange individuals in the uninsured category, and those most likely to lose their coverage would be those in lower-income jobs, as well as people working in small businesses and startups.
We would spend a trillion dollars to achieve a net result of solving a third of the uninsured problem. We could have exceeded that by simply paying for private insurance. Assuming an annual cost of $5,000 for basic catastrophic and wellness coverage, we could purchase 20 million plans for the ten years, without overhauling the rest of the American health-care system.
But that would be akin to the “public plan,” which the trillion-dollar CBO cost estimate doesn’t cover. The inclusion of such a plan would remove the incentive for employers to offer insurance at all, which would create many millions more uninsured. At the same time, the public plan would undercut private insurers in the individual markets, pushing people who got kicked out of an employer group plan towards the Medicare-like coverage — and accomplishing single payer by default.
What would be the real cost of ObamaCare? Well north of a trillion dollars. We’ll see if the CBO updates the figures with the analysis of the dynamic impact of the public plan in the coming days, or whether the CBO gets suddenly quiet about it.