As I previously noted, the Congressional Budget Office actually said the House health care bill would cost $1.055 trillion from 2010 to 2019, even though most news accounts focused on the $894 billion figure. The difference is that the lower figure includes the offsetting taxes collected from individuals who do not purchase insurance and on businesses that do not provide insurance.
The most basic test of media fairness is that they should at least use comparable numbers when reporting the costs of various bills. Unfortunately, the media mostly failed on this account.
Remember how when the CBO score of the Senate Finance Committee bill came out it was widely reported to cost $829 billion? Well here’s where that number came from, quoting from the CBO: “the “net cost itself reflects a gross total of $829 billion in credits and subsidies provided through the exchanges, increased net outlays for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and tax credits for small employers…”
Well here’s what yesterday’s CBO estimate of the House bill had to say: the “net cost itself reflects a gross total of $1,055 billion in subsidies provided through the exchanges (and related spending), increased net outlays for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and tax credits for small employers…”
So clearly, the correct number to report regarding the House bill was the $1.055 trillion figure. The New York Times’s Prescriptions blog, to its credit, concluded that: “a closer look at the budget office report suggests that the number everyone should have reported was $1.055 trillion, which is the gross cost of the insurance coverage provisions in the bill before taking account of certain new revenues, including penalties by individuals and employers who fail to meet new insurance requirements in the bill.”
But instead, most of the media assisted Democrats by reporting the lower figure, which helps them claim that they met President Obama’s pledge that the overall cost of health care legislation would be less than $900 billion.
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