CBO has to game estimates to keep Obamacare from looking abysmal

CBO has to game estimates to keep Obamacare from looking abysmal

“Put not your trust in princes,” warned the psalmist, “nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.”  (Psalm 146:3, KJV)

One has to take a biblical turn, when supposedly non-partisan government-chartered agencies engage in crassly obvious partisanship.  It’s sad to see the once-trustworthy Congressional Budget Office become a casualty of the government-standards debacle under Barack Obama.

But see it one does.  Jeffrey H. Anderson has outlined it neatly at The Weekly Standard, and we get to follow along as he recounts how the CBO has retroactively “revised” its 2013 estimate in order to make the reality of 2016 look better than it is.

The salient facts are that in 2013, the CBO projected that 201 million people would have private health insurance in 2016.  The actual number so far is 177 million, and there is no reasonable prospect of that number increasing to 201.

Moreover, back in in 2013, the CBO projected that without Obamacare, 186 million people would have private health insurance in 2016.  In other words, the 2016 number falls below CBO’s 2013 estimate of how bad things would be if there were no Obamacare.

As Anderson points out, if we read this the way such figures are normally read in political Washington, it means that 9 million people who would otherwise have had private insurance have lost it.

But fear not.  In order to mask this unfavorable trend, the CBO has simply gone back and changed its 2013 estimate.  (The Defense Department should certainly get to do this whenever Senator McCain is yelling at it in committee.  “Hey, Senator, chill already.  We’ve revised our 2013 estimate of how much the F-35 was going to cost, and how long it would take to get it into service.  Oh, and those performance problems?  We’ve revised all our estimates on that stuff too.  We’ll revise them back to 1995 if we have to.  Believe us: this all looks way better if you just use our revised estimates!”)

Says Anderson:

[T]he CBO maintains that Obamacare has actually increased the number of people with private health insurance by 9 million and has increased the number of people on Medicaid or CHIP by (just) 13 million. But it would seem that the only reason the CBO can make these claims is that it has moved the goalposts.

That is, the CBO has significantly altered its estimates for what 2016 would have looked like if Obamacare had never been passed. In 2013, the CBO projected that, in the absence of Obamacare, 186 million people would have had private health insurance in 2016, and 34 million people would have been on Medicaid or CHIP. The CBO now maintains that, in the absence of Obamacare, only 168 million people would have had private health insurance in 2016 (a reduction of 18 million people from its 2013 projection), while 55 million people would have been on Medicaid or CHIP (an increase of 21 million people from its 2013 projection). Somehow the hypothetical non-Obamacare world has changed a lot in the past three years. (The CBO doesn’t explain how this could have happened.)

Speaking of Medicaid and CHIP, Anderson highlights that instead of 34 million or even 55 million people, the actual number of people covered by these programs in 2016 is 68 million.  As he puts it:

It turns out that Obamacare is pretty much a giant Medicaid expansion.

And that’s with only 32 states expanding Medicaid under the terms of Obamacare.

CBO is cagey with numbers in other ways too.

Try finding, for example, tallies from the federal government (whether from the CBO or otherwise) on what Obamacare has actually cost so far. Rather, the CBO is like a handicapper who predicts the results of horseraces, but then never bothers to publish the races’ actual results.

This alone is a good enough reason to get rid of Obamacare – along with a number of other government programs – and never have them burdening the people again.

Anderson calls Obamacare “basically an expensive Medicaid expansion coupled with 2,400 pages of liberty-sapping mandates.”  It’s worse than that; it also gave us a republic-altering Supreme Court decision, a bell that can’t be unrung without at least another constitutional convention.  But it’s bad enough that it’s an expensive Medicaid expansion with a list of arcane mandates so long that hardly anyone knows what they all are.

So it probably shouldn’t surprise us that “scoring” Obamacare is an exercise in sleight of hand and unseemliness, for an agency the people once had reason to trust.

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer

J.E. Dyer is a retired Naval Intelligence officer who lives in Southern California, blogging as The Optimistic Conservative for domestic tranquility and world peace. Her articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s Contentions, Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard.


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