A former Bush official, who led Bush’s social security privatization effort and now works for the Koch-funded Mercatus Center, made a splash with a new study reported by the Washington Post. He claims Obamacare actually increases the deficit rather than reducing it, as the CBO reported. Anti-Obamacare zealots were quick to seize on his study as “proof” of some kind of conspiracy between the White House and the CBO. But as is so often the case with the Republican party today, it’s really just another double standard. When something supports a Democratic program it’s somehow evil, but when it supports a Republican proposal it’s perfectly valid.
Of course, the CBO is right about Obamacare. The double-counting claim is bogus:
[T]here’s no double-counting involved in recognizing that Medicare savings improve the status of both the federal budget and the Medicare trust funds. The outlooks for the budget and for the Medicare trust funds are two different things; some changes in law may affect one and not the other, but other changes affect both.
CBO estimates that health reform will modestly reduce the federal budget deficit. The Medicare actuary says that health reform will extend the solvency of the Hospital Insurance trust fund by eight years.
That’s no different than when a baseball player hits a home run: it adds to his team’s score and also improves his batting average. Neither situation involves double-counting.
The CBO has been analyzing policies this way forever, for both political parties. Indeed, it’s exactly the same cost analysis they used to score the GOP’s Balanced Budget Act of 1997 and the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, both approved by a Republican controlled Congress and both used the same Medicare savings metric as Obamacare.
The same goes for Paul Ryan’s much touted budget plan, which was passed by the Republicans who control the House. Ryan’s plan also used Medicare savings in his projections that he claimed would reduce the deficit. Funny, Republicans don’t call it double-counting when they use it.