Re: No, Obamacare’s Costs Didn’t Double

by Avik Roy

Patrick Brennan points out some of the faults in the argument that Obamacare’s costs “doubled,” in light of the new set of CBO estimates: $1.76 trillion in spending from 2012–2022, vs. $940 billion from 2010–2019. He rightly points out that the larger number covers eleven years vs. ten, that the later years involve more spending because implementation is more complete, and that these numbers ignore the fact that tax revenue is also coming in, such that the deficit reduction is roughly the same.

However, Patrick, I think, soft-pedals one important point: Democrats were driven to keep the spending-side “cost” of their legislation under $1 trillion, because they wanted it to seem like a big, but not gigantic, increase in government power. In that sense, it is worth highlighting the change in estimates. Basically, what the new numbers reflect is that the program is much larger than the initial ten-year cost suggested. And that, in turn, means that the law taxes and spends much more than Democrats wanted people to think.

P.S. On another subject, my take on Paul Ryan’s new plan for Medicare and Medicaid is here. Here’s a nice video that Ryan’s team produced, explaining their approach to Medicare reform: