Jordan Candler / February 22, 2019

CBO Grossly Overestimated Uninsured

It was way off in its estimates of the number of uninsured without the individual mandate.

“Scandalously off.” Those are the words the Washington Examiner’s Philip Klein used to describe claims from the Congressional Budget Office regarding the anticipated effect of ObamaCare’s individual mandate.

Recall that the individual mandate was the motor around which everything else supposedly revolved. “CBO estimates about the importance of an individual mandate to a national healthcare scheme prodded President Barack Obama into including the unpopular provision into the law in the first place,” Klein writes. Moreover, in 2017, during which Republicans were attempting to repeal and replace ObamaCare, the CBO doubled down by claiming the number of insured would drop by 14 million (and eventually more) — most of which “would stem from repealing the penalties associated with the individual mandate,” the CBO claimed.

Except the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, almost as an afterthought, has exposed the fallaciousness of those estimates. “In what was literally a footnote in its annual report on national health spending projections, actuaries for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Wednesday estimated that the elimination of the individual mandate would have a significantly smaller impact than the CBO has long estimated,” Klein says. “Specifically, the CMS report revealed that 2.5 million more people would go without insurance in 2019 due to the repeal of the individual mandate’s penalties, and the impact would be ‘smaller’ thereafter.”

There’s already evidence to support this conclusion. ObamaCare enrollment this year tallied 8.4 million, which isn’t all that far off from the 8.7 million who enrolled in 2018. “Given the outsized influence that the CBO has on policymaking in Washington,” Klein says, “the CBO’s misfire on the individual mandate should be a major story.” Scandalous indeed.

Exit question: Would Republican health reform have passed if the ludicrous accounting from the CBO’s snake-oil salesmen was left out of the equation? That’s a question worth asking centrist lawmakers.

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