Republicans on the Senate Budget Committee have released a new analysis saying Obamacare will increase the national debt by about $131 billion over the next 10 years, instead of reducing the debt as President Barack Obama and other Democrats have argued.
The Congressional Budget Office has not conducted any new assessments of the budget impact of the law since 2012, when it said Obamacare would reduce the debt by $109 billion over by 2022. Democrats have thrown that number back at Republicans who want to repeal Obamacare, and have said repeal would increase the debt by $109 billion.
But Republicans on the committee argue that this number ignores some of the more recent impacts the law has had, and that those changes indicate the law will actually lead to $131 billion more in debt by the end of 2024. Here’s how they get the number:
The GOP analysis starts by extending CBO’s 2012 analysis into 2024, which is the end of the current 10-year budget window. By doing that, Republicans estimate that CBO would predict a debt reduction of $180 billion because of Obamacare.
Republicans then attribute even more deficit reduction credit to the law, given the slow enrollment rate last year caused by the glitch-prone website, HealthCare.gov. A slower signup rate means fewer federal subsidies are handed out, and over ten years, Republicans say that would lead to another $80 billion or so in reduced spending.
That means Obamacare would save $260 billion over ten years.
However, Republicans then consider other factors that significantly erode CBO’s estimate that Obamacare saves money, and uses recent CBO data to do so.
For example, the analysis notes that Obamacare plans to draw on Medicare funds to fund the new program. But CBO has recently noted that lower health care spending over the last decade — a trend that Republicans say began years before Obamacare took effect — means less money is expected to be used by Medicare than expected.
That means there will be less money Obamacare can borrow from Medicare, and that over the next decade, the government will incur about $130 billion in new debt to pay for Obama’s law. That change reduces Obamacare’s debt-reduction to about $130 billion over ten years.
The final adjustment noted another CBO analysis that said by 2024, Obamacare will result in 2.5 million full-time equivalent jobs to be lost. That’s a 1 percent reduction in aggregate labor income, and Senate Republicans assume the country will see a similar 1 percent reduction in taxable income.
That 1 percent cut in income is $262 billion, enough to completely wipe out any remaining debt reduction from Obamacare, and turn it into a $131 billion increase in the debt over two years.