Double counting? So what!


Health-care law will add $340 billion to deficit, new study finds…CBO and Medicare actuaries acknowledge the double-counting issue. “In practice, the improved [trust fund] financing cannot be simultaneously used to finance other federal outlays (such as the coverage expansions) and to extend the trust fund, despite the appearance of this result from” traditional budget rules, Medicare actuary Rick Foster wrote last year. And in 2010, the CBO wrote that, absent the Medicare savings, the law would increase deficits by $226 billion through 2019 — instead of decreasing them by the commonly cited $132 billion. In arriving at his deficit figure of $340 billion, Blahous updates the numbers through 2021 and subtracts savings that would have come from another provision of the law: the CLASS Act, a long-term-care program that was supposed to have generated as much as $86 billion in new revenue through 2021. The administration acknowledged last year that the CLASS Act is unworkable and suspended efforts to implement it. “This isn’t just a persnickety point about the intricacies of budget law,” Blahous said. “If Medicare were going insolvent in 2016, you’d better believe right now there would be more pressure on lawmakers to do something about it. . . . It’s essential that there be a full public understanding of the most economically significant federal law in years.”

Response: “Administration officials dismissed the study, arguing that it departs from bipartisan budget rules.” It’s only arithmetic if we say it is! HT: IBD

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