The Corner

On Obamacare, Republicans Don’t Need to Deceive


Over at the Washington Examiner, Conn Carroll, who on Monday claimed that, “Yes, Obamacare’s costs have almost doubled,” has accused me of “shilling for Obama, Pelosi, and Clyburn,” for noting that conservatives have dishonestly presented last week’s CBO findings.

Avik Roy pointed out that, in fact, I probably did let the Democrats off easily for their 2010 claim of a sub-trillion dollar price tag. In the course of trying to get the bill passed, they were indeed concerned with keeping the initial ten-year cost under $1 trillion. Without nothing that That suggestion (though not the CBO’s) is dishonest accounting, of course, but their duplicity doesn’t justify conservatives in making other inaccurate claims, especially from journalists who are presumably reporting objective numbers.

Nothing substantial has changed about the cost (gross or net) of the act, and thus it really is deceptive to say, as Carroll does, that “Obamacare’s costs have doubled since it became law.” Of course, some set of ten years will cost about twice what the CBO projected for the first ten years, meaning something like $2 trillion. Carroll notes this, which I also explained:

The bill’s gross costs will be huge; ten years of full implementation, from, say, 2015–2025, will cost more than $2 trillion, since the bill ticks in at $250+ billion per year after 2021. This fact was perfectly evident in the 2010 estimate, which projected similar annual costs for years of full implementation, but it is worth noting that, in this sense, 2012–2022 is a closer approximation of the full size (though not net cost) of Obamacare than 2010–2019 and at $1.7 trillion, still isn’t even big enough.

In fact, if Republicans hadn’t been so eager to pretend that Obamacare’s costs “have doubled,” they could have focused on the reality that ten years of Obamacare will cost more than $2 trillion (rather than the new headline CBO number of $1.76 trillion) — something we knew just as well in 2010 as we know now. It’s probably even more important, of course, that millions more Americans than expected will lose employer-provided healthcare insurance. That’s one of Obamacare’s true failures so far, and an honest headline — “Obamacare’s costs have doubled” isn’t.

Conservatives hardly need any more evidence that government programs end up costing more than they’re expected to — so we shouldn’t pretend it’s happened where it hasn’t (Yet.)

Patrick Brennan was a senior communications official at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Trump administration and is former opinion editor of National Review Online.


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