(Quin Hillyer, Liberty Headlines) Conservatives have long been furious at the Congressional Budget Office’s bizarre projections of people losing insurance if Obamacare is repealed, and now four congressmen are doing something about it.
Seeing that a pending major spending bill is a “must pass” piece of legislation, Republicans Morgan Griffith of Virginia, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania on Monday introduced an amendment that would remove a major budget-predictor function from CBO’s jurisdiction.
Instead of having CBO staff do primary analysis of long-term effects of complex legislation, the new arrangement would have the CBO merely aggregate the projections from “third-party public-policy groups across the political spectrum,” according to a release from Griffith.
For each version of an Obamacare replacement that Republicans have submitted to CBO for analysis, CBO has predicted that more than 20 million people would “lose” insurance under the new plan. These projections, based on a series of odd assumptions combined with a strange new definition of “lose,” have made it very difficult for Republicans politically to pass a replacement bill.
In addition to specific complaints about the accuracy of those Obamacare-related numbers (about which, more in a moment), Republicans point to a long history of CBO’s projections proving wildly inaccurate.
“I have also cited in the past its prediction that a sale of wireless spectrum would be revenue-neutral when the sale in fact earned $40 billion for the government,” Griffith said. “When someone gives you bad advice again and again, why would you trust them to help you make big decisions?”
Meadows and Jordan together wrote a column in the Washington Examiner on July 21 that cited even bigger CBO mistakes: “CBO’s cost estimate of the 2002 Farm Bill was off by $137 billion. Six years later, they miscalculated the cost of the 2008 Farm Bill by a whopping $309 billion.”
Eight former heads of CBO wrote a letter defending the office’s “integrity” and its supposedly “non-partisan and high-quality analysis,” but acknowledge that it has not “always generate[d] accurate estimates.”
Specifically on the Obamacare-replacement bills, conservatives for months have chafed at both the methodology and the conclusions of CBO. For example, it recently emerged that a whopping 73 percent of those predicted to “lose” coverage under Republican bills would merely choose not to participate, rather than actually losing access to insurance. What’s lost would not be the financial capability to buy insurance, but rather the government mandate to do so under penalty of a stiff penalty.
Of course, most people think of eliminating a requirement not as losing something, but as gaining an option.
Similarly, as even the left-leaning “Politifact” outfit admits (although with as many excuses as it can muster) CBO bases many of its predictions of losses on how many people it projects to use Obamacare in the future, rather than on how many people actually are using it. So it is predicting that some seven million people will “lose” coverage they don’t yet have.
And that’s just in the individual market. Critics say CBO pulls similar tricks with its Medicaid estimates, noting that CBO projects that five million people would fall off Medicaid rolls in states that never expanded Medicaid in the first place. In other words, say the critics (with exquisite common sense), those five million are essentially phantoms.
Critics also note that CBO’s past predictions for Obamacare, just as in the case of the farm bill and the wireless spectrum, were dead wrong. In 2010, CBO projected that some 25 million Americans by now would be participating in Obamacare “insurance exchanges,” but only 12.2 million actually are doing so. [Information from Department of Health and Human Services numbers.]
Finally, a scholar for the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) says CBO reached its projections of 20-million-plus losing insurance by breaking CBO’s own rules. By law, CBO is supposed to take into account the likely big-picture economic effects of the bills it analyzes – but NCPA’s John Graham notes that CBO did not do so here. Therefore, even though the bill would spur economic growth in numerous ways, and offer all sorts of new incentives (through the free market rather than by government mandates) for people to buy insurance, CBO assumes none of those factors will lead to more people finding ways to secure coverage.
And these are just a sampling of the criticisms of CBO’s efforts. That’s why the four congressmen are offering their amendment – an amendment whose fate remains unknown – to end the CBO’s reign of error.Click here for reuse options!
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