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Get Ready For A Right-Wing Meltdown: CBO Says Obamacare Will Cost Less Than Projected, Cover 12 Million Uninsured Americans This Year


The Congressional Budget Office has released updated estimates on the Affordable Care Act’s impact on both the budget and the health insurance industry. The findings show that the president’s signature health care law is actually growing cheaper to implement, costing the government $5 billion less in 2014 than was previously projected. The law also is projected to cover more individuals than previously believed, owing, in part, to some broader workforce trends.

Below are some additional highlights from the CBO report:

Twelve million more non-elderly people will have health insurance in 2014 than if Obamacare had not become law. CBO’s projections on this crucial measure of the law’s success are higher than recent surveys from the Rand Corp., which estimated  a 9.5 million reduction, and from Gallup, which predicted a 3.5 million decline.



Even with those gains, a good chunk of the country will still lack coverage. The number of uninsured is estimated to be 30 million in 2016 and 2017. While some of the uninsured will be made up of those who are eligible but decline to purchase insurance, almost quarter are attributable to Republican governors’ refusal to expand Medicaid. A recent Harvard study found that an estimated 17,000 additional deaths will occur among people who would have been covered had expansion been supported in all states.

Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program will grow by 7 million more beneficiaries in 2014 than if Obamacare weren’t law, the CBO said. The law calls for an expansion of Medicaid eligibility to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,300 for a single person, but 24 states declined to broaden the program this year. The number of enrollees will jump next year but eventually level off. The CBO projects that 11 million more people will sign up for Medicaid in 2015, and 12 million to 13 million per year between 2016 and 2024. The CBO does not estimate how many more people would have signed up for the programs this year had their states chosen to participate in the expansion.

The cost of the health care law is falling, according to the CBO. Between 2015 and 2024, the price tag of Obamacare will be $1.383 trillion, $104 billion lower than prior estimates. This is because of a combination of factors, including a reduction of $165 billion in the gross costs of coverage (the government will spend less on exchange subsidies) and fewer people and businesses paying penalties for either not purchasing coverage or not providing it to their workers.


For example, the CBO projects that the government will collect $46 billion in penalties from those who choose not to purchase health insurance. This is less than its February projection of $52 billion in individual mandate penalty payments. The CBO also projects $139 billion in penalties for employers who do not provide health coverage to their workers as mandated under the law. The February projection was $151 billion, but it was reduced, in part, by the Obama administration’s decision to relax the employer mandate.

Another reason for the revised cost estimate is new projections of price increases for health insurance sold on the exchanges in future years, which are now projected to be much lower than original estimates. The CBO estimates that the price of premiums may be as much as 50% lower than originally projected, which is good news for anyone purchasing insurance through the Marketplace, but bad news for Republicans opposed to affordable insurance coverage.

The CBO’s report tells us a lot about the future of the health care law, but there are two big questions left unanswered: how long will it take Republicans to collectively freak out over the good news, and what kind of laughable rhetoric will they use this time?


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