Thursday, March 24, 2011

FACT CHECK FOLLOW-UP: CBO (Politely) Calls Out GOP - and Schweikert - On Healthcare Law Costs

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office ("CBO" has struck back at the Republicans' use of its report from last Friday, strongly suggesting that the GOP misrepresented its analysis.

Yesterday, Arizona's Politics Fact-Checked Arizona Rep. David Schweikert's (R-CD5) - and the GOP's- claims that the costs associated with the healthcare reform law that went into effect last year had just risen by $500 billion (to $1.445 trillion).  While unable to uncover where they had come up with that number - even in the CBO's budgetary analysis that was apparently the source that the Republicans had latched onto - we noted that Schweikert and fellow Republicans were studiously ignoring the larger picture of the net effect of the law on the federal budget deficit and that the repeal of the law would increase the deficit.

Late yesterday, after the Fact Check was researched and written, but before it was posted, the CBO posted on its Director's blog a clarification of the issue.  It appears that the CBO was not pleased with the selective use of its figures.  (This was probably exacerbated by the fact that the Republicans had been blasting the CBO for its analysis of last year's law and of the GOP proposed repeal.)

While not lending itself to easy quoting, the new CBO blog post does make it clear that: (1) the CBO's adjustments to the estimated cost of expanding health insurance coverage were slight and based on technical changes and updated economic inputs; (2) one cannot automatically infer a re-estimate of the entire budgetary impact of the law; (3) the CBO still is secure in its earlier conclusion that the entire law reduces the deficit through 2021 by approximately $210 billion; (4) that the Republicans' talking point ONLY comes from the "gross effect" of the insurance coverage provisions and blurs different time periods (last year's estimate covered 2010-19 and the new one 2012-21); and (5) that the CBO will continue to make these types of adjustments, and the figures will "probably change again in the future for all of those same reasons."

While adding the caveats that the GOP should have included - that the CBO has not re-estimated the entire budgetary impact - it is reasonable to infer from the CBO's report in February on the estimated total deficit reduction effect of the 2010 healthcare reform law ($210 billion), and the 8.5% increase between February and last week in the estimated net effect of the insurance coverage provisions ($89 billion), (and assuming that the other provisions' estimated effects have not changed since last month) that the estimated total deficit reduction effect of the 2010 healthcare reform law is presently estimated at $121 billion between 2012-2021.  On the other hand, for that same period, repeal of the 2010 healthcare reform law is presently estimated to increase the federal deficit by approximately $121 billion between 2012-2021.

One further addition  to yesterday's Fact Check: we noted that Schweikert claimed that the "job-killing" healthcare reform law added $670 billion dollars in taxes.  Here is a Politifact analysis breaking down the amounts of taxes in the law - they could not come up with a legitimate figure (from the CBO or the Joint Committee on Taxation) for the next ten years (through 2019) of more than $525 billion.

With the new information from the CBO - and, unless and until we are presented with a factual defense of the GOP's claims - we are giving Schweikert and the GOP a Fact Checked grade of "F" for the false use of numbers. 

We welcome your comments about this post. Or, if you have something unrelated on your mind, please e-mail to info-at-arizonaspolitics-dot-com. Thanks.

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