New study shows ObamaCare subsidies potentially five times higher in first year than predicted

In passing ObamaCare, Democrats argued that it would provide a net relief to the budget deficit in its balance of new taxes and fees, drastic cuts to Medicare Advantage, and the subsidies it would provide to Americans making $88,000 a year or less.  A new study commissioned by Families USA, a group that supports ObamaCare, shows that the Democrats and the CBO badly miscalculated the level of subsidies provided.  In the first year (2014), 28 million Americans would have eligibility for more than $110 billion, outstripping the Congressional/CBO estimate by almost 600%:

Families USA commissioned The Lewin Group to use its economic models to estimate how many individuals would benefit from the new premium tax credits in 2014 and the value of the dollars going to help pay for insurance (see the Methodology on page 12 for more details). We found that an estimated 28.6 million Americans will be eligible for the tax credits in 2014, and that the total value of the tax credits that year will be $110.1 billion.

The new tax credits will provide much-needed assistance to insured individuals and families who struggle harder each year to pay rising premiums, as well as to uninsured individuals and families who need help purchasing coverage that otherwise would be completely out of reach financially. Most of the families who will be eligible for the tax credits will be employed, many for small businesses, and will have incomes between two and four times poverty (between $44,100 and $88,200 for a family of four based on 2010 poverty guidelines). However, because the size of the tax credits will be determined on a sliding scale based on income, those with the lowest incomes will receive the largest tax credit, which will ensure that the assistance is targeted to those who need it the most.

That conflicts with the final CBO estimate that Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats used to argue for ObamaCare.  In his presentation to Congress, CBO director Douglas Elmendorf predicted a cost of only $20 billion on health-exchange subsidies and associated costs.  The Lewin Group, which conducted the study for Families USA, shows that four times as many people will become eligible for subsidies in 2014 than the CBO predicted in March and that the cost will be 550% higher as a result (page 4 of the linked study):

  • „„ Nationally, approximately 28.6 million Americans will be eligible for these new premium tax credits in 2014 (see Table 1).„
  • „ People in working families—those with annual incomes at or above 200 percent of the federal poverty level ($44,100 for a family of four in 2010)—will constitute nearly twothirds(65.6 percent) of the people who will be eligible for a premium tax credit (seeTable 1a).

Morgen at Verum Serum discovered the wide discrepancy and notes that the study wasn’t intended to argue against ObamaCare:

The Lewin Group study was commissioned by Families USA, a healthcare reform advocacy group based out of Washington D.C. which is closely allied with the White House and leading Democrats in Congress. Then Senator Obama was a keynote speaker at their annual Health Action conference in 2005 and 2007, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opened the 2008 event. Other leading Democrats who have participated at Families USA events in recent years include Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Ted Kennedy.

The study appears to be the centerpiece of a major media campaign initiated last month by Families USA to promote the benefits of the health reform legislation. A September 14 press release touts the projected $110 billion in federal subsidies as “one of the largest middle-income tax cuts in history”, but makes no mention of the discrepancy with the CBO’s earlier estimate.

Families USA also published state-by-state estimates by the Lewin Group of the number of people eligible to receive these subsidies and the associated costs. Numerous local media outlets around the country have reported on these figures over the past few weeks.

The CBO’s projection that the healthcare reform bill would reduce the deficit by an estimated $143 billion over 10 years was a critical factor in the enactment of the bill. Democrats lost their super-majority in the Senate in January 2010 when Scott Brown was elected in Massachusetts, and ultimately passed the bill in March only through the use of procedural tactics, and without a single Republican vote in the House or Senate.

The claim that the bill will reduce the deficit continues to be a leading selling point for proponents of reform. Just last month Families USA repeated this claim in a press release criticizing opponents of the legislation. But if the latest Lewin Group estimate is correct the initial 10-year cost of the bill will be significantly higher than what was forecast by the CBO, and would begin adding to the federal deficit as early as 2015.

Morgen also contacted Families USA to get an explanation of the difference, and was told that he made an “apples to oranges” comparison.  Why?  This survey, they explained, showed how many people would be eligible, while the CBO predicted how many people would actually take advantage of their eligibility for tax credits.  This is an odd distinction to make, since the entire idea of the subsidies is to encourage uninsured Americans to buy health insurance through both mandates and generous subsidies.  How likely will it be that people will pass on the notion of getting big tax credits to subsidize must-issue health insurance?  And if the success rate in applying mandates, higher taxes, and more government authority to the 270 million Americans who are already insured is only 20-25% in getting the other 30 million insured, how is that at all successful?

The deficit projection given by Democrats was apparently based on 75% failure rates to get people into the system; their advocates are busy touting the massive amounts of subsidies in the program that will tip ObamaCare into a deficit exploder in Year 2.  Either way this goes, it’s a massive failure.