It’s much as advertised. Thanks to its spending provisions mainly starting in 2014, the reconciliation bill combined with the Senate version has a total cost of $940 billion, with deficit savings of around $138 billion (via No Runny Eggs):
CBO and JCT previously estimated that enacting H.R. 3590 by itself would yield a net reduction in federal deficits of $118 billion over the 2010-2019 period, of which about $65 billion would be on-budget. The incremental effect of enacting the reconciliation proposal—assuming that H.R. 3590 had already been enacted—would be the difference between the estimate of the combined effect and the previous estimate for the Senate-passed bill, H.R. 3590. That incremental effect is an estimated net reduction in federal deficits of $20 billion over the 2010-2019 period over and above the savings from enacting H.R. 3590 by itself; almost all of that reduction would be on-budget (see the bottom panel of Table 1 and subtitle A of title II on Table 5). …
Although CBO does not generally provide cost estimates beyond the 10-year budget projection period, certain Congressional rules require some information about the budgetary impact of legislation in subsequent decades, and many Members have requested CBO’s analyses of the long-term budgetary impact of broad changes in the nation’s health care and health insurance systems. Therefore, CBO has developed a rough outlook for the decade following the 2010-2019 period by grouping the elements of the legislation into broad categories and (together with the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation) assessing the rate at which the budgetary impact of each of those broad categories is likely to increase over time. Our analysis indicates that H.R. 3590, as passed by the Senate, would reduce federal budget deficits over the ensuing decade relative to those projected under current law—with a total effect during that decade that is in a broad range between one-quarter percent and one-half percent of gross domestic product (GDP).3 The imprecision of that calculation reflects the even greater degree of uncertainty that attends to it, compared with CBO’s 10-year budget estimates.
Using that same analytic approach, the combined effect of enacting H.R. 3590 and the reconciliation bill would also be to reduce federal budget deficits over the ensuing decade relative to those projected under current law—with a total effect during that decade that is in a broad range around one-half percent of GDP. The incremental effect of enacting the reconciliation bill (over and above the effect of enacting H.R. 3590 by itself) would thus be to further reduce federal budget deficits in that decade, with a total effect that is in a broad range between zero and one-quarter percent of GDP.
Undoubtedly, this is good news for Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats. The overall deficit reduction number from the CBO, as well as the under-$1 trillion price tag, gives them some momentum towards winning the votes of reluctant moderates. Whether they can overcome the issues of abortion and Demon Pass will still have to be seen, but at least on cost they have some ammunition.
That also applies to the reluctance in the Senate to take this bill back up again. The House version with the reconciliation package saves more money off of the deficit than the Senate version alone, at least according to the CBO. If the Senate balks at considering the reconciliation changes, they’ll essentially be writing off supposed savings to the deficit.
Republicans set part of their argument against the House effort on the CBO response, but not all of it. This doesn’t help build opposition to the bill, but it doesn’t stop it on the other grounds. Expect the GOP to push hard on abortion and the individual mandate, as well as Demon Pass in response.
Update (AP): Here’s the key table from CBO’s letter to Pelosi. Via Philip Klein, want to see what a shabby fraud these cost estimates are? Check out the line for “Gross Cost of Coverage Provisions”:
This is why they’re delaying the start of the program, of course. If it kicked in right away, the decade-long estimate would obviously be well into the trillions. So they simply stalled it for four years, incurring just $17 billion in costs — or 1.8 percent of the total 10-year estimate — through 2013 so that wavering Democrats could go back to their districts and tell baldfaced lies to their constituents about the pricetag. A perfect ending to this travesty.
Update (Ed): I’ve received a lot of e-mail asking me to emphasize that this is a preliminary CBO report. That’s true, but that’s exactly what was promised, too. Politically, I doubt it makes much difference — and generally speaking, the preliminary reports are in the ballpark with the eventual final analysis.