Published March 14, 2012
The Congressional Budget Office has extended its cost estimates for President Obama's health care law out to 2022, taking in more years of full implementation, and showing that the bill is substantially more expensive -- twice as much as the original $900 billion price tag.
In a largely overlooked segment of the CBO's update to the budget outlook released Tuesday, the independent arm of Congress found that the bill will cost $1.76 trillion between now and 2022.
That only counts the cost of coverage, not implementation costs and other changes.
"The bill spends more than the president promised, it covers fewer people -- probably 2 million fewer people -- and it taxes more than was expected," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., ranking member on the Senate Budget Committee.
The first estimates of the cost of the health care bill included three years before the bill even took effect, so there was little or no spending, making the full 10 years look less expensive. Sessions notes that the $1.76 trillion estimate includes only the costs of coverage, not implementation and other costs. He argues that all those drive the price up even further over the first full 10 years of the law.
"The full accounting of the bill is $2.6 trillion. That's a fair and accurate analysis of what the bill would cost, according to CBO," Sessions said, noting how the cost dwarfs the fight over the 10-year debt reduction plan debated last year.
"We spent a whole summer fighting over a way to reduce spending by $2.1 trillion and here this bill is going add $2.6 trillion more in spending."
Budget watchdogs note that before the bill passed into law, Republicans warned the price tag was bound to go up -- since the expenditures and receipts covered different time periods.
"Spending doesn't begin until 2014, and so you got to count a couple of years where nothing was going on," said Doug Holtz-Eakin, director of Committee for a Responsible Budget. "If you have a big spending program and you count 10 years of it instead of eight years, you get a much bigger number, which is what we've done. ...
"Now those years are steadily going into the rearview mirror and what we're instead (at) are years where it's fully implemented," Holtz-Eakin continued. "The Affordable Care Act is going to cost a lot of money."
But one Democratic lawmaker says competition will lower costs.
"There are no public options. There's no big new government health plan being offered. It's all private sector options, and we hope they compete against each other to get prices down," said Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn.
As expensive as it is, the CBO predicts the law will actually reduce the deficit because it increases the income from a range of tax increases and penalties on individuals, employers and insurance companies -- by $81 billion more than last year's projection.
"Over the 10-year period from 2012 through 2021, enactment of the coverage provisions of the ACA was projected last March to increase federal deficits by $1,131 billion, whereas the March 2012 estimate indicates that those provisions will increase deficits by $1,083 billion," the report reads.
The CBO model also assumes that between 3 million and 5 million people will lose health care coverage from their employers and there will be 1 million to 2 million more people who won't qualify for the exchanges but will go on Medicaid instead. In all, some 30 million people will remain without health coverage, according to the estimate.
CBO notes that it bases its new projections in part on both a slower recovery and a smaller than estimated growth in health care costs over the past year as well as legislative fixes over the past year.
Sessions noted that the study projects spending in accordance with the law will add at least $700 billion to the deficit in the years 2010 to 2019 -- its first 10 years of enactment.
"Sadly, it may prove much worse than that," he said.
Fox News' Jim Angle contributed to this report.