The white smoke rose Monday afternoon from the Congressional Budget Office as the fiscal forecasters published their cost-and-coverage estimates of the GOP health-care reform bill. Awaiting such predictions—and then investing them with supposed clairvoyance—are Beltway rituals. The coverage numbers weren’t great for Republicans, but they shouldn’t allow an outfit that historically underestimates the benefits of market forces to drive policy.
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The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 24 million fewer people will have health insurance by 2026 under the House GOP plan to replace Obamacare. That projection is unsurprising, and quite likely overstated. But what is surprising about the CBO report is the ways in which it makes the GOP bill look better than expected, and how it points to how the bill can be improved. The bill would cut taxes by $1.2 trillion, and spending by $880 billion, for a net deficit reduction of $337 billion. And that’s before you take into account the macroeconomic effects that those tax cuts would have on economic growth, and thereby on greater tax revenues. Over ensuing decades, the fiscal impact would be even greater, because the bill entails the most significant effort at entitlement reform in American history. The bottom line: Republicans shouldn’t abandon the AHCA because of a superficially unflattering CBO score or its failure to meet their own purity tests. They should work all the more to correct its flaws. If they do, in 2020, the real world very well may vindicate them instead of the CBO.
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