Even without a complete cost estimate, the House Ways and Means Committee today plowed ahead with its plan to create a huge new health care entitlement and initiate the government takeover of the health care sector. The bill was developed by three committees that have jurisdiction over health care issues, and often is referred to as the tri-committee, or “Tri-Comm,” bill. What is known about the bill demonstrates its potentially devastating effects.
Based on preliminary estimates by the Congressional Budget Office [CBO] and the Joint Committee on Taxation [JCT], the measure will cost at least $1 trillion; will raise taxes by $587 billion; would impose $160 billion of what the Democrats would call “cuts” in Medicare – and would still raise the budget deficit by $295 billion. (See Figure 1.)
This violates one of the President’s basic principles: that health care reform should not increase the deficit. During a House Budget Committee hearing last month, Office of Management and Budget Director Orszag said: “And so, just to reinforce the point, what we are saying is that health care reform must be deficit neutral using CBO-scored, hard, scoreable offsets, over 10 years and in the 10th year.”
More troubling is the trend. The bill’s cost grows more rapidly than its offsets, according to preliminary figures by CBO and JCT. By 2019, the bill’s cost exceeds the offsets by nearly $100 billion in that year alone (see Figure 2, next page). In questioning CBO Director Elmendorf today, Congressman Ryan asked about the bill’s long-term fiscal outlook. Director Elmendorf noted that, in the 10th year, the bill’s spending is growing at 8 percent while offsets are only growing at 5 percent. The Director also noted that Medicare offsets would need to be growing at around 10 percent in the 10th year to keep pace with the new spending in the bill beyond the 10 year window.