Critical Condition

The True Ten-Year Costs of Two Massive Bills (and One Small Bill)

For the most part, the Democrats have been successful in hiding the real ten-year costs of their health-care bills. But my piece with Ben Sasse in today’s New York Post attempts to bring the real costs to light.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, literally 99.9 percent of what the Democrats call the “ten-year” costs of the House bill would not kick in until after the next presidential election, and only about 2 percent of the Senate bill’s “ten-year” costs would kick in before the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics (the Games in Sochi, Russia, not the upcoming ones up in Vancouver).

If we start the clock when the bills’ costs actually start, their true ten-year costs become visible. In its real first decade, the House bill would cost $1.8 trillion, and the Senate Finance Committee bill — now in the hands of Senate majority leader Harry Reid — would cost $1.7 trillion. The House bill would increase taxes and fines by $1.1 trillion, the Senate bill by $1.0 trillion. The House bill would siphon about $800 billion away from Medicare, the Senate bill about $900 billion. All of these numbers are according to official CBO projections, and they show that, from a financial standpoint, there’s almost no difference between the House and Senate bills.

The real ten-year numbers for the Democratic bills show two main things: One, these are colossal bills, with actual first-decade costs, taxes, and Medicare reallocations that are essentially double the widely reported tallies. Two, the Senate bill is not remotely a moderate bill. If the House bill is the Pacific Ocean of government intrusiveness, the Senate bill is the Atlantic. Each is almost incomprehensively large, and each is more than capable of sinking our leaky budgetary ship.

For those looking for an alternative, there is one. In its real first decade, the Republican small bill (which I wrote about yesterday at The Weekly Standard) would raise spending by about $60 billion, would impose no new taxes, and would not divert any money away from Medicare. It would reduce deficits by $68 billion. And it would lower Americans’ insurance premiums across all three categories of insurance — individual (by 5-8 percent), small group (by 7-10 percent), and large group (by up to 3 percent).

All of these figures are from the CBO. More than six months into the health-care debate, the CBO has finally scored a health bill that it says would lower Americans’ insurance premiums.