By Fr. Fred Kammer, S.J.
The new U.S. House Republican majority is proposing what it calls the Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act (H.R. 2). Several enormous problems exist for this legislation besides the fact that it will not be considered in committee before a full house vote, not be amendable, not pass the Democrat-controlled Senate, and would be vetoed by President Obama. First, repeal will cost $230 billion over the next ten years, projects the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and a likely $1.3 trillion over the following decade. Second, there is no evidence that it is “job-killing.”
Acknowledging that they have not yet had time for a detailed estimate of the budgetary impact of repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, Public Law 111-148) and the provisions of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-152) related to health care, CBO nevertheless provided House Speaker John Boehner with a “less-detailed preliminary analysis” of H.R. 2 on January 6, 2011. In ten pages, the CBO lays out a compelling case for an increased federal deficit of at least $230 billion in the 2012-2021 decade and $1.3 trillion dollars or more in the decade that follows. Basically, these numbers reverse the deficit-reduction numbers developed in great detail last year in consideration of the Affordable Care Act.
Speaker Boehner attempted to dismiss the CBO cost estimates as “opinion” and implied that Democrats had forced CBO to produce misleading figures. In his words, “CBO can only provide a score based on the assumptions that were given to them.” As discussed by Paul N. Van de Water of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, House and Senate Budget Committees and administrations of both parties have “developed procedures that CBO uses to prepare cost estimates.” CBO has used those procedures, not some assumptions from the Democrats. Van de Water continues:
Up until now, congressional leaders of both parties have acknowledged CBO’s professionalism and recognized its critical role as a neutral arbiter in budget matters. They have accepted CBO’s cost estimates, even when those estimates have proved inconvenient for their side. This wholesale attack on, and rejection of, a CBO estimate for a major piece of legislation by the leadership of the House or Senate is unprecedented.
[“Debunking False Claims about Health Reform, Jobs, and the Deficit,” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, January 7, 2011, p. 3, accessed on January 11, 2011.]
In addition, claims that the Affordable Care Act is a “job-killer” do not stand up to factual scrutiny. Chad Stone and Paul Van de Water respond to the implication that the health reform law will be a major drag on the economy by increasing employers’ costs by citing non-partisan assessments of how the law will affect the economy and labor markets. They highlight three key points in this regard:
See “No Evidence for House Republican Charge that Health Reform is a ‘Job-Killer,’” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, pp. 1-2, January 6, 2011, accessed on January 11, 2011. In addition, Stone and Van de Water note three significant positive economic effects that the law could have—on economic growth, labor market flexibility, and improved health outcomes.
The CBO letter to Speaker Boehner containing their preliminary analysis of the cost of repealing the health reform law is found at http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/120xx/doc12040/01-06-PPACA_Repeal.pdf
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