Competing cost, coverage and employment estimates provided the background music throughout the week that Republican House members spent passing a repeal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
ACA supporters, opponents cite dueling numbers
The Obama administration grabbed the most ears with its Jan. 18 report that concluded roughly 129 million Americans younger than age 65 could face insurance loss or higher premiums if full repeal was carried out. That estimate was at the high end of HHS estimates, while a more conservative estimate, based solely on individuals who have conditions that make them eligible for high-risk insurance pools, put the figure at 50 million, or 19% of adults under 65.
Those figures were countered by conservative healthcare researchers, including Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, who said the HHS estimate vastly overstates the problem. During a Capitol Hill discussion, Cannon said previous HHS surveys have consistently found less than 1% of Americans have ever faced denial of private insurance coverage or lost coverage because of pre-existing conditions.
Another numbers conflict arose last week over CBO projections that repeal of the healthcare law would increase the deficit by $230 billion over the coming decade and by a modest amount in the decade after that.
Not so, concluded Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former CBO director and economic adviser to Sen. John McCain during the Arizona Republican's 2008 presidential bid. Holtz-Eakin and his colleagues at American Action Forum calculated that the Republican repeal of the healthcare law would lower the federal deficit by $279.7 billion in the first 10 years, because it would eliminate the law's nearly $1 trillion in new government spending over the next decade. “This makes the 10-year national debt outlook, which is already bad, worse,” Holtz-Eakin said at a Capitol Hill presentation on his analysis.
The Holtz-Eakin report also concluded that repeal could save 695,000 jobs. He and his colleagues based that conclusion on CBO estimates that the law, on net, will reduce the amount of labor used in the U.S. economy by roughly 0.5%, which is due, in part, to increases in the payroll tax rate and penalties for firms that do not offer insurance.
That result is not possible, according to supporters of the healthcare law. The simple fact that the law directs the spending of nearly $1 trillion in the first 10 years clearly indicates a vast expansion in the provision of healthcare, which would necessarily produce a job boom.
“Healthcare reform critics who claim it will destroy jobs are not only wrong, they are misleading the public,” said Paul Van de Water, a former senior CBO official now at the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
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