February 5, 2014

CBO says Obamacare to cost $2 trillion over next decade, cut employment by 2.5 million

President Obama's health care law will cost slightly more than $2 trillion over the next decade, according to a new report from the Congressional Budget Office.

The CBO report also said the health care law will distort the economic incentives for individuals to work and thus the nation will lose the equivalent of 2.5 million full-time jobs by 2024.

When Obama sold the health care law to Congress in 2009, he said it would cost "around $900 billion," but that was only because the major provisions were delayed until 2014. Now that they have been implemented, the cost of expanding Medicaid and subsidizing individuals to purchase insurance on the exchanges will be just over $2 trillion from 2015 to 2024, CBO said.

The health care law also includes taxes and cuts to Medicare that previous CBO estimates have said would more than offset the costs, though the new report doesn't include a full deficit analysis incorporating these offsets.

According to the report, 6 million individuals will obtain insurance through the exchanges in 2014, which is down slightly from the CBO's earlier 7 million estimate, but still much more optimistic than would have been expected last fall, when technical problems plagued the rollout of the law.

The CBO also said that the "risk corridors" program — which has been billed as a "bailout" for insurers — would actually generate a net savings of $8 billion from 2014 through 2016, though it didn't give a year by year breakdown and cautioned that there were "many uncertainties" surrounding the CBO estimate due to the limited government experience with such programs.

On the employment front, CBO said, "The reduction in CBO's projections of hours worked represents a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024."

CBO wrote that, "For some people, the availability of exchange subsidies under the ACA will reduce incentives to work."

CBO cautioned that this estimate, too, was subject to "substantial uncertainty."


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