So the Congressional Budget Office’s numbers are out. Sort of. While we now have an official document from the CBO evaluating the Democratic health care proposals, the analysis opens with this following cautionary note:
Although CBO completed a preliminary review of legislative language prior to its release, the agency has not thoroughly examined the reconciliation proposal to verify its consistency with the previous draft. This estimate is therefore preliminary, pending a review of the language of the reconciliation proposal, as well as further review and refinement of the budgetary projections.
What basically happened is that Democrats were rushing to get out the CBO scores so that they could have some sort of claim to have released them 72 hours prior to a vote, which they want to hold on Sunday. But we won’t have 72 hours to look at the actual final scores.
An initial reading of the report suggests that Democrats employed similar accounting gimmicks as in previous iterations of the health care bill, while making up a shortfall with more cuts to Medicare Advantage, siphoning money from the Student loan bill, and raising taxes further. While I’ll go into further detail later once I’ve had a chance to look at all of the moving parts, and analyze the actual bill itself, one thing worth highlighting is that as expected, Democrats have maintained the strategy of delaying the major spending provisions until 2014 to create the appearance that the bill is cheaper over the CBO’s ten year budget window, from 2010 through 2019. In this version, the bill spends $17 billion in the first four years, while the remaining $923 billion, or 98 percent, is spent in the next six years. I’ve illustrated this tactic in the chart below. One thing to note is that the oft-quoted $940 billion number only pertains to the cost of expanding coverage — which is the bulk of spending in the bill — but it does not include all other costs, such as the providing more Medicare prescription drug subsidies, which costs about $38 billion. I’ve used the $940 billion figure in the chart below, but have specified that it’s only the cost of the coverage provisions.