The Truth About Affordable Care Act Costs

by Stuart Shapiro

The Republicans have seized on a report by the Congressional Budget Office on the Affordable Care Act.  They claim that the report shows that the costs of the ACA have doubled.  Then, in true right wing fashion, they repeat it over and over.  One problem (and it’s a common problem for the Republicans): that’s not exactly what the report said.

So where are conservatives getting the idea that the cost of the law doubled? When it passed in 2010, CBO said its 10-year outlays would be about $940 billion. But because the law isn’t set to be fully implemented until 2014, when the coverage expansion takes effect, that initial estimate included several years in which the law cost very little. Now that it’s 2012, CBO’s 10-year outlook captures more years during which the law will be in full effect. The law’s price tag appears higher, but its costs in no way doubled.

As Steve Benen notes:

Like it or not, the CBO report still shows the Affordable Care Act doing what it’s supposed to do, while cutting the deficit, just as proponents argued during the debate in 2009 and 2010. The arguments Democrats made at the time are bolstered, not undermined, by the new data. Indeed, as Jonathan Cohn noted, “The real news of the CBO estimate is that, according to its models, health care reform is going to save even more taxpayer dollars than previously thought.”

Well, numbers aren’t exactly the GOP’s strong point.

About Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels. Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush.

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