The Corner

A Lot for a Little

This afternoon the Congressional Budget Office released its first preliminary score of a portion of the Democrats’ health care plan (in this case what has come to be known as the Kennedy bill). It is very preliminary, because apparently the text that CBO analyzed did not include a public insurance “option” or an employer mandate, which the current draft of the Kennedy bill does include. So the costs and revenues involved with those are not included in this analysis. Just the parts they did analyze would cost about a trillion dollars, the CBO concludes, and for all that money would reduce the number of uninsured Americans by about 16 million by 2019. In other words, having spent a trillion dollars, displaced millions of families who now have employer-based insurance, and created a vast new health care bureaucracy whose costs would continue to balloon, we will still have about 37 million uninsured people—or about the same number as in 2000.

If the government did nothing new, CBO says the uninsured would be 19% of the non-elderly population in 2019. If they implemented the Democrats’ proposal, the uninsured would be 13% of the non-elderly population.

There will be more scoring documents to come, as there are a large numbers of provisions to take account of that haven’t been counted here, but this is a pretty rough start for the Democrats. They expected the CBO score to produce some painful cost numbers that would complicate their efforts, and it has. But I don’t think they expected the upside to be quite so unimpressive. It makes it difficult to argue for the value of all that spending, taxing, and growth of government.

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.


The Latest