Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.
Monday, October 24, 2016

By Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Lower-than-expected health insurance premiums under Obamacare will help cut the long-term cost of the program 7 percent over the next decade, according to the latest report from the Congressional Budget Office.

The government’s reduction of $104 billion in subsidies for those premiums was the main factor that led the nonpartisan fiscal watchdog to cut its projection of the nation’s federal deficit by nearly $300 billion through 2024.

According to the CBO report, released Monday, the average annual premium for the new health care exchanges’ midlevel Silver plan — used as a benchmark — is expected to be $4,400 by 2016. That would be 15 percent lower than the office’s estimate before President Barack Obama’s signature health law was passed four years ago.

The cost was cheaper because the benefits offered, including doctor choice and coverage, were narrower than the CBO initially expected, though it predicted benefits and premiums would rise in future years.

Because health plans are expected to cost less, federal subsidies offered this year to low-income individuals also will decrease — as much as $300 per enrollee from a previous estimate.

Those subsidies account for more than $1 trillion of the nearly $1.4 trillion cost of the Affordable Care Act over the next decade.

The White House said the CBO revisions show that the health law is achieving one of its primary goals by limiting the growth of health care spending.

“This is historic progress and shows how the Affordable Care Act is working as it was supposed to by helping more Americans get coverage, while making historic progress in slowing health care cost growth and improving our nation’s fiscal outlook by lowering deficits,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

But independent analysts noted that the CBO continues to project that overall deficits will begin to grow again after their recent declines, requiring difficult choices in the future on taxes and entitlements to address the growing national debt.

The CBO continues to project that six million individuals will buy health insurance through the exchanges this year, despite the administration’s recent announcement that 7.5 million have enrolled in plans. The White House said the discrepancy results from a technical calculation CBO makes for individuals enrolled for only a portion of the year.

The CBO expects the number of enrollees to quadruple by 2016 before leveling off at 25 million over the rest of the next decade. An additional 13 million will have health coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program than would have had coverage without the Affordable Care Act, it said.

The latest projections are likely to become part of the debate in this year’s midterm elections, which have largely centered on the state of Obamacare during its most crucial phase since passage in 2010.

Republican leaders had no immediate response. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement that “despite the savings the Affordable Care Act is realizing for middle-class families and for our nation, Republicans continue their desperate fixation with its repeal.”

Looking at the broader budget outlook, the CBO revised its projected federal budget deficit for this year to $492 billion, which is $22 billion less than it had forecast two months ago.

The cumulative $7.6 trillion in deficit spending over the next 10 years is $286 billion less than it had forecast two months ago, a revision the CBO bases largely on the lower projections for Obamacare subsidies.

The deficit is expected to shrink next year to $469 billion, the sixth consecutive annual decline when compared with the overall economy. But it is projected to grow again in 2016 to $536 billion and potentially eclipse the $1 trillion mark again by 2023, in part, because of the expansion of health care spending.

The United States will spend $5.8 trillion on interest costs alone on the national debt over the next decade.

“Policymakers should be using this period of relative calm to make real progress on our long-term fiscal challenges,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

LeDawna’s Pics via Flickr

  • elw

    Of course this is good news for the Democrats, but the Republicans will twist the information to make it fit their wishes. We all know that these CBO are prediction only that will change as circumstances change. What they do not show or measure is the human factor in the ACA. There is not a mathematical figure or prediction in the world the can truly measure the resulting benefits of keeping people healthy and able to contribute to world around them; nor do they show the difference health care access can make in an individual’s life. You cannot put a value on the health and safety of people. Health care may or may not be a right, but it is moral obligation; in addition, it is common sense will tell you that a healthy and will fed population is much more productive and happier than a sick and hungry one.

    • Insurgent

      2700 Pages condensed

      Here are the 2,700 pages of the OBAMACARE (ACA) condensed into one sentence.

      ObamaCare: To insure the uninsured, we first make the insured uninsured and then make them pay more to be insured again, so the original uninsured can be insured for free to buy votes for the Democratic party.

      • elw

        As I said the Conservative Republicans will twist the facts to fit what they believe. Your comment is a perfect example.

        • 4sanity4all

          Amen. I had lousy insurance, now I have good insurance, and for a little more money, I am getting SO much more healthcare. The ACA has helped me greatly, and a lot of my family and friends say the same. But you are right, and some people will blame the President when the insurance companies try to extract all of the co-pays they can out of us. But with the law, at least now there is a limit.

          • JPHALL

            Except for those who kept old policies. Anthem Blue Cross in California has already notified policy holders of a massive increase. Obama will get blamed for that also.

          • elw

            Where is you proof of that? How many policy holders got increases and what amount do you consider Massive. Just because you think it is so, does not make it real.

        • Insurgent

          And you are truly a frickin’ idiot and a strong supporter of the muslim Kenyan.
          I am not a republican and not a democrat——–
          It is mentally incompetent people like you that will destroy this country
          DC is America’s cesspool for liars, whores, and thieves !!!
          Pull your head out of your arse and you will breathe much easier !!!!!!

          • Paul Bass

            Sorry, your racism and bigotry is showing.
            Obama was BORN IN the USA! (just like Bruce Springsteen!), NOT Kenya! and He is mainstream CHRISTIAN, not Muslim.
            GO spread your lying vitriol elsewhere…

          • Insurgent

            Bite me!!

          • Paul Bass

            Troll, I bet you wouldn’t say that to my face. (I DO live in redneck Texas…)

        • Dominick Vila

          Insurgent’s comment highlights the desperation of a party that has been forced to reject a concept advanced by The Heritage Foundation, and beta tested by Romneycare, because it was proposed and signed by a man they hate.

          • elw

            I think the President described their problem perfectly, they are mourning the their lost cause. However, I think they are stuck in the anger stage of the mourning process. Insurgent is a very angry person.

      • Paul Bass

        GO AWAY, we don’t believe your regurgitated Fox news lies…

        • Insurgent

          Morons like you are the reason we have the current circus in DC !!!

          • Paul Bass

            No truth, only insults, typical of right wing trolls…

  • Dominick Vila

    Unfortunately, news like this are unlikely to make the front pages of our newspapers or the major TV outlets, who seem to be more interested in Benghazi and Dancing with the Stars than searching for the truth and challenging the hyperbole and lies that have been spread about Obamacare. While cost effectiveness is, obviously, very important, the most important facet of Obamacare is its impact on the health and welfare of the American people. People with disabilities no longer have to worry about being denied coverage. Seriously ill folks who need expensive procedures no longer have to worry about being denied coverage because they reached an artificial cap, and don’t have to sell their houses to pay for what they need. Young people going to college and those working for companies that don’t offer benefits no longer have to worry about not being able to pay for the medical care they may need, or become a burden to their families. Most importantly, those who went without medical care their entire lives, and only had access to emergency care, can now get affordable insurance policies and get the preventive medical care we all need to live a long and productive life.