The Congressional Budget Office released its preliminary assessment (caution: boring) of the House health care reform bill this morning, and the news is good: if all goes as planned, the Reconciliation Act to HR 4872 and HR 3590 will reduce the deficit by $130 billion in its first ten years. Notice that I say, “the news is good,” and not “the news is good for Democrats.” Finding out that a plan to improve the general welfare might actually save us a bunch of money is nice; if you like the idea of poor kids having medicine but don’t like the idea of the United States becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary of China, the CBO report should be a load off your mind. Of course, if you’re some sort of professional demagogue whose opposition to health care reform has been based on the supposedly enormous tax burden it will place on your audience, it puts you in a tough position. Theoretically, you should change your mind—deficits bad: health care bad, so now deficit reduction good: health care good—but that would feel uncomfortably similar to being wrong. No, when your position suddenly stops lining up with the facts, your only option is to change the facts.
First of all, it should come as no surprise to anyone that Newt Gingrich is a big Skynyrd fan. Second of all, get ready to have a lot more completely unproductive arguments over facts with guys like this, because the Congressional Budget Office has released a report projecting that the proposed health care reform bill will have little impact on insurance premiums. Kind of. It turns out that the math on this one was really hard—so hard that the CBO initially refused to make an estimate. On the insistence of Senators Max Baucus and Evan Bayh, though, they’ve been crunching numbers for weeks now, pausing only to drink Mountain Dew and watch Buffy on Netflix, and they have concluded that, um, a bunch of stuff will change. But not really. The upshot of the CBO report is that premiums for individuals in large-group employer plans—that is, those in pools of 50 or more—would see a +1% to -2% change by 2016, while those in small-group employer plans would see their premiums drop by zero to 3%. Individuals who purchase policies for themselves—my unemployable ass, for example—will see the largest difference, with a projected 10 to 13% increase in premiums. Yes, increase. That’s a little misleading, though, because A) the cheapest policies currently offered to individuals fall below proposed minimum standards, so people paying higher premiums will also get better coverage and B) federal subsidies will reduce the actual cost to individuals by about 50%. Are you confused yet? The health care debate just got a little more complex, and that’s a boon to Republicans.