CBO throws in the towel on scoring ObamaCare

Congressional budget scorekeepers said they can no longer measure the fiscal impact of many provisions of ObamaCare because the task is impossible.

In a little-noticed footnote from April, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said it will continue to assess the effects of the law's exchange subsidies and the Medicaid expansion, while not tracking others.

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"The provisions that expand insurance coverage established entirely new programs or components of programs that can be isolated and reassessed," the office wrote.

"In contrast, other provisions of the Affordable Care Act significantly modified existing federal programs and made changes to the Internal Revenue Code.

"Isolating the incremental effects of those provisions on previously existing programs and revenues four years after enactment of the Affordable Care Act is not possible."

The note came in the CBO's analysis of ObamaCare's insurance coverage provisions in April and was first reported Wednesday by Roll Call.

It means that measuring the healthcare law's effect on the budget deficit will be much more difficult, if not impossible. The CBO is normally the best source of information on bills' projected fiscal effects.

Democrats designed the Affordable Care Act to reduce the deficit despite its massive expansion of healthcare coverage by producing savings over time in programs like Medicare.

The law also includes a variety of taxes and fees to raise revenue, some of which the CBO suggested it could no longer analyze.

The CBO produced a full budgetary analysis of the law for the last time in 2012, concluding that repealing the Affordable Care Act would increase the deficit by $109 billion over 10 years.

This outcome relies on the full implementation and maintenance of policies like the employer mandate, which Republicans and business groups have fought to repeal.

Experts raised concerns that without a full CBO score, it will be easier for provisions that finance the Affordable Care Act to disappear, which could increase the deficit.

"There’s no barrier to continually rolling back the financing mechanisms without the effect on the Affordable Care Act's finances ever being fully disclosed," Charles Blahous, a public trustee for Social Security and Medicare, told Roll Call.