Morning Bell: Repeal Doesn’t Increase the Deficit

Conn Carroll /

When now-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D–CA) was sworn in as Speaker on January 4, 2007, the national debt stood at $8.67 trillion. By the time Pelosi surrendered the gavel to Speaker John Boehner (R–OH) yesterday, the national debt stood at $14.01 trillion. At $5.34 trillion, that means Speaker Pelosi added more than $1 trillion in debt per year during her tenure as Speaker. And yet she has the audacity to tell reporters Tuesday: “Deficit reduction has been a high priority for us. It is our mantra, pay-as-you-go.”

Only someone so out of touch with reality that they could claim that “deficit reduction” has been their “highest priority” while simultaneously adding more than $1 trillion a year to the debt could possibly claim that repealing Obamacare would add to the debt. But that is exactly what Pelosi wants us to believe. Also on Tuesday she claimed that repealing Obamacare would do “very serious violence to the national debt and deficit.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

While the CBO did produce a report projecting that Obamacare could produce $124 billion of savings over its first 10 years, no honest and intelligent person believes that that score will ever become reality. Not even the CBO. CBO Director Doug Elmendorf wrote: “CBO’s cost estimate noted that the legislation maintains and puts into effect a number of policies that might be difficult to sustain over a long period of time.” Elmendorf then goes on to identify a number of specific Obamacare policies, such as arbitrary reductions in the growth rate for Medicare spending, that anyone who follows health care policy knows will be impossible to actually implement.

Speaking of arbitrary reductions in the growth rate for Medicare spending, another way Speaker Pelosi gamed the CBO to get a fantasy deficit reduction number was to ignore how Medicare pays doctors altogether. Early versions of Obamacare included a permanent “doc fix” that prevented automatic cuts to physician reimbursements under Medicare. But when Democrats couldn’t get the score to come out right with the doc fix included, they simply solved that problem by cutting it out of the legislation entirely. They have since been forced to pass two extensions of the doc fix in separate pieces of legislation. It’s super easy to claim that your health care bill doesn’t add to the deficit if you don’t bother to include payment for doctors in it.

And there are other aspects of Obamacare ‘cost controls’ that were not identified as politically suspect by CBO and are already rapidly crumbling. Not only is the individual mandate to buy health insurance being gravely challenged in the courts, but support among Democrats is also evaporating, particularly among those who have to face voters in 2012. Senator Claire McCaskill (D–MO), who is up for reelection next year, came out in favor of scrapping Obamacare’s individual mandate yesterday, telling MSNBC “There’s other ways we can get people into the pool—I hope—other than a mandate, and we need to look at that.”

Nobody expects President Barack Obama to sign a bill that would repeal his signature accomplishment as president. But that does not mean that a House repeal of Obamacare would be a waste of time. It would be a strong signal to the nation that the new House is serious about honest deficit reduction, bureaucracy reduction and putting control of health care back into the hands of American families.

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