Repealing ObamaCare would add $353 billion to deficits, CBO says

Repealing ObamaCare would increase budget deficits by $353 billion over the next 10 years, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said in a 28-page report released Friday.

That’s a steep increase over the CBO’s last estimate of an ObamaCare repeal in July 2012, when the budget scorekeeper said abolishing the law would raise deficits by $109 billion over the 2013–2022 period.

{mosads}The new projection, coming just ahead of a major Supreme Court ruling on the law, examines the potential effect of repeal on deficits from 2016 to 2025.

And in a new dynamic score, which encompasses macroeconomic effects, the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimate that repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would increase the national debt by $137 billion over that same time frame.

While these estimates are not based on a specific ObamaCare repeal plan, the two scorekeepers assumed for the analysis that a repeal of the healthcare law would take effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

Under that scenario, 19 million people would lose health insurance in 2016, the report said. 

From 2021 to 2025, 24 million more people would lose insurance, including 22 million who had been enrolled in the law’s exchanges and 14 million who had been on Medicaid.

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, requested the report and said in a statement that the findings show repealing ObamaCare would boost economic growth.

“While CBO’s report notes that the deficit impact of repealing the law is highly uncertain, and could even reduce the deficit, it does show that repealing this law will boost nationwide employment and grow the economy,” Enzi said in a statement.

The CBO said its projections are subject to “substantial uncertainty” for a variety of reasons, including an upcoming Supreme Court decision.

As early as next week, the justices are expected to rule in the case King v. Burwell on the legality of a central piece of the 2010 healthcare law. A ruling against the Obama administration could take away insurance subsidies from people in up to 37 states, dramatically increasing the amount they pay in premiums.

If the court ruled against the law, the “CBO and JCT would reduce their projections of spending on those subsidies under current law and would reduce their estimates of the savings generated by repealing the ACA’s coverage provisions — although the magnitude of those reductions is uncertain and would depend in part on the specific details of the Court’s opinion,” the report said.

Despite those uncertainties, the report predicts the effects of an ObamaCare repeal would be so large after 2025 that it would be unlikely for the debt to decrease.

The agencies released their findings a day after the House voted to repeal an ObamaCare tax on the makers of medical equipment. That tax is expected to generate $25 billion for ObamaCare over the next decade, but there is support in both parties for abolishing it. The White House has rejected repealing the tax unless the funding is replaced.

On the question of ObamaCare subsidies, House Republicans have been uniting around a plan that would give states the option of keeping them if the Supreme Court rules against the healthcare law.

This week, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) presented a proposal to lawmakers that would give block grants to states that want them. States would choose how to spend the money to cover people there. States that refused the block grants could temporarily keep the old ObamaCare subsidies in place.

The extension and block grants would last for two years, giving the next president a chance to enact an alternative to ObamaCare.

Congressional Republicans also voted in March to send instructions to several authorizing committees in both chambers to focus on an ObamaCare repeal through the budget reconciliation process. The panels must submit those proposals by mid-July, not long after the Supreme Court decision.

An ObamaCare repeal, the CBO and JCT said, would be difficult to execute.

“Implementing a repeal of the ACA would present major challenges. In the five years since its enactment, nearly every key provision of the law has taken effect and has been incorporated into final rules and other administrative actions,” they said. “Undoing the ACA would thus be quite complicated.”

Peter Sullivan contributed.

Updated at 12:27 p.m.

Tags Mike Enzi Paul Ryan
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