An Affordable Healthcare Act supporter (R) talks with a student (L) about the law on the campus of Santa Monica City College in Santa Monica, California, October 10, 2013.
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Obamacare price tag keeps shrinking

The Congressional Budget Office released a whole lot of information yesterday, all of which caused a fair amount of chatter, but some of it matters more than others.
Most of the coverage I’ve seen highlighted the CBO projections on the budget deficit, most notably an expected shortfall of about $468 billion – 2.6% of GDP – for this fiscal year. This puts the U.S. on track for the smallest deficit in eight years, and over $1 trillion in deficit reduction in the Obama era.
The same report noted that the era of extremely fast deficit reduction will probably end soon after, which will invariably lead deficit scolds to start demanding cuts to social-insurance programs. But that won’t make any substantive sense it won’t be social-insurance programs that cause the larger deficits.
What I found more interesting, however, is what the CBO had to say about the Affordable Care Act.
Obamacare, as it is commonly known, will cost 20 percent less than previously projected over the next decade, the CBO said Monday. The reason for the revised estimate is a result of a decline of healthcare inflation, the Los Angeles Times reported. In addition, the number of uninsured Americans has fallen by 12 million, the CBO estimates, and an additional 12 million are expected to gain insurance by the end of 2016.
Through 2019, the law’s insurance provisions will cost an estimated $571 billion, down $139 billion from the CBO’s initial estimates.
One of the more common complaints from the right is that the nation “can’t afford” the ACA. Even if it’s working, even if it’s saving lives, the argument goes, the massive reform law simply carries too large a price tag.
That argument cannot be taken seriously. For one thing, “Obamacare” reduces the deficit – repeal it and the shortfall conservatives sometimes pretend to care about gets worse, not better. For another, the price tag keeps shrinking, not growing, making the “we can’t afford it” argument nonsensical.
What’s more, the CBO also found that the Affordable Care Act has brought coverage to 12 million Americans – a total that will continue to grow steadily in the coming years – and the uninsured rate is expected to drop to just 8% by the end of President Obama’s tenure.
Of course, 8% isn’t 0%, and that would still leave many people in this country without coverage, but according to the CBO, nearly all of those folks would be either undocumented immigrants, ineligible for benefits under the reform law, or low-income families living in red states that refuse to accept Medicaid expansion – a problem the White House cannot solve.
I can appreciate when there’s so much good news about the ACA, it’s easy to lose track of all the positive developments, but this report from the Congressional Budget Office, in effect, is a blaring neon sign that reads “Obamacare is working.”
It’s something Republicans on the Supreme Court should keep in mind as they weigh whether to destroy the system without cause later this year.