The latest analysis of the CBO’s scoring of the GOP’s repeal efforts is shocking, but it really shouldn’t be. The media is constantly telling us that the Congressional Budget Office is an unbiased, and nonpartisan entity that does their very best to accurately score the legislation coming out of Congress. Here’s the problem with that math… it’s wrong. The CBO has proven time and again to be biased towards big government initiatives and they are hardly ever “accurate” on their estimates. Now, one of the foremost healthcare experts and economic genius, Avik Roy, is unmasking the CBO for what they truly are – a hack organization that doesn’t care about accuracy or truth.
Roy is a right-leaning economist and thinker but he recently decided to dig into the CBO projections because he noticed something startling about the projections of every GOP healthcare plan – they all showed expectations of more than 20 million people “losing” their healthcare. It didn’t matter how conservative or how moderate the plan, no matter what the GOP suggested, the CBO kept saying that more than 20 million people would lose their healthcare. Roy wondered how this was possible give the wildly different plans being suggested by various legislators. So, Roy dug into the numbers and realized almost immediately that the CBO was playing a corrupt and very misleading game with their projections:
In the national debate over the GOP health reform proposals, one data point has stood out above all others: the estimate, from the Congressional Budget Office, that more than 20 million people would “lose” coverage as a result. And there’s been an odd consistency to the CBO’s projections. Do you want to repeal every word of Obamacare and replace it with nothing? The CBO says 22 million fewer people would have health insurance. Do you prefer replacing Obamacare with a system of flat tax credits, in which you get the same amount of assistance regardless of your financial need? The CBO says 23 million fewer people would have health insurance. Do you prefer replacing Obamacare with means-tested tax credits, like the Senate bill does, in which the majority of the assistance is directed to those near or below the poverty line? The CBO says 22 million fewer people would have health insurance. 22 million, 23 million, 22 million — these numbers are remarkably similar even though the three policies I describe above are significantly different. Why is that?
A congressional staffer kindly leaked the CBO’s scoring process to Roy, and what he learned was that nearly 75% of the difference in coverage between Obamacare and any of the GOP bills has to do with the repeal of the “individual mandate.” Yes, 3/4 of the difference is just because the GOP would stop forcing people to buy healthcare, and the people would CHOOSE to stop getting healthcare insurance.
It gets worse, almost all of the rest of the difference between the GOP’s suggested bills and Obamacare only exist because the CBO is using faulty numbers.
Based on those estimates, of the 22 million fewer people who will have health insurance in 2026 under the Senate bill, 16 million will voluntarily drop out of the market because they will no longer face a financial penalty for doing so: 73 percent of the total. As you can see in the above chart, two factors—repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate and the CBO’s outdated March 2016 baseline—explain nearly all of the CBO-scored coverage difference between GOP bills and Obamacare.
Below is the chart that Roy is talking about:
The GOP keeps suggesting new plans with hopes that the CBO will give them a better score, but as Roy’s explanation proves, there is no plan that the GOP could propose that would give them a fair scoring. The CBO score has been the primary reason that GOP moderates have given to explain why they continue to fight against repeal, but again, Roy’s breakdown proves that their excuse is spurious. The moderates have to choose, will they continue to be cowed by the fake numbers from the CBO? Will they continue to break the very promises they made to get elected? Or will they finally stand up and do what they promised – repeal Obamacare?
In a follow up piece over at Forbes, Roy suggests a simple solution for the GOP to prove that the CBO’s projections are all washed up:
There’s a simple way for Republicans to highlight the CBO’s mandate mania: have CBO score one version of the bill with an individual mandate, and one version without. It’ll make as plain as day what those of us who follow this stuff see up close: that the mandate is the secret sauce driving the CBO’s faulty coverage predictions.
By the way, the media continues to report that repeal is unpopular, but you shouldn’t believe that nonsense. The most recent CNN poll proved that talking point was a lie and revealed that most Americans want Obamacare repealed.
The GOP has some work to do, and they better get started now.