True Cost: The CBO Takes An Impartial Look At The Health Law

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

July 30--Too many Americans have lost sight of the pluses of the health care law that was upheld last month by the U.S. Supreme Court. Here's a refresher:

A person cannot be denied insurance due to a pre-existing condition. Insurance companies are barred from capping the dollar value of care given to a person with chronic illness. Young adults can stay on their parents' policies until age 26.

Also, small businesses and non-profits will be eligible for a tax credit to offset the cost of covering employees. Insurers may spend no more than 20 percent of premium dollars on marketing and other overhead. And, ultimately, an estimated 30 million uninsured Americans will be covered by 2022.

Despite these benefits and the justices' assent, Republican critics of "Obamacare" continue to make election-year denunciations of the package, even alleging that it will expand the nation's deficits -- Mitt Romney says by "trillions" of dollars.

A far different analysis came last week from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. In a one-two punch, it said that the Affordable Care Act will reduce federal deficits over the next 10 years by $84 billion. It then added, in response to a request from House Speaker John Boehner, that the Republican-controlled House's bill to repeal the 2010 law would raise deficits by $109 billion in the next decade.

The CBO said the reduced deficit estimate is largely due to the Supreme Court's decision that made the law's Medicaid expansion an option for states. With that, the budget office projects that 3 million fewer uninsured Americans, of the previously projected 33 million, will get coverage.

That will make the act's insurance coverage provisions cost $1.168 trillion in 2012-2022, not $1.252 trillion, as estimated in March. Even so, the CBO restated its conclusion that the spending controls and revenue collections mandated by the health law would cut annual deficits in the future. Among the revenues the CBO anticipates from the statute are $55 billion in tax penalties from those who do not buy insurance and $117 billion from employers who offer no coverage to their workers.

The health care law is by no means perfect. The nation needs to do far more to prevent illness, like reducing obesity and smoking, and the industry must ramp up efforts to educate more health care professionals to meet growing demand.

In the meantime, the CBO report is an updated assessment of the real cost of the overhaul. Americans would be wise to believe impartial analysts over wild-eyed politicians.


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Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Wordcount: 432


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