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Sessions stumbles on 'simple multiplication'

To determine the per-person cost of "Obamacare," Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) asks us to consider "simple multiplication." That's a great idea.
U.S. House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions walks to a meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 30, 2013.
U.S. House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions walks to a meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 30, 2013.
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Rules Committee, has earned an unfortunate reputation. The six-term congressman and former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee just doesn't seem overly interested in substantive details.
About a year ago, for example, Sessions seemed to forget what a "witch hunt' is. The year before, Sessions said he believes it's "immoral" to extend jobless aid to "long-term unemployments [sic]." Around the same time, the congressman said the House should stop worrying about governing and focus exclusively on "messaging."
Earlier this month, the Texas Republican said he holds President Obama "personally accountable" for murders committed by undocumented immigrants, pointing to imaginary evidence.
Yesterday, Sessions added a mathematical error to his list of greatest hits.

In an apparent miscalculation, House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) claimed Tuesday that ObamaCare will cost $5 million per person. Precisely how Sessions arrived at that calculation during House floor debate on the budget is unclear.

Yes, on the House floor yesterday, the GOP lawmaker not only failed to do his math homework before speaking, he presented his false argument in a surprisingly condescending way for someone who didn't know what he was talking about.
"If you just do simple multiplication," Sessions said, "12 million [consumers] into $108 billion, we are talking literally every single [ACA] recipient would be costing this government more than $5 million per person for their insurance. It's staggering.... $108 billion for 12 million people is immoral. It's unconscionable."
Let's take Sessions' advice and "do simple multiplication."
I'm no mathematician, but when I put 12 million into $108 billion, I get $9,000, not $5 million. Sessions' $5 million per-person estimate was only off by $4,991,000.
But as Glenn Kessler explained, that's really just the start of the congressman's troubles.

None of Sessions' numbers make much sense, however. The Congressional Budget Office, in a March report, said that the cost of coverage in fiscal 2016 for Obamacare (in the exchanges and Medicaid expansion) would be $95 billion, after penalty payments and other revenue. But the reduction in the number of uninsured Americans would be 23 million people. So if you do the math correctly, that's a cost of $4,130 per uninsured individual in 2016. So that's more than half the figure that would have resulted from properly dividing Sessions' numbers. The CBO also reports that about 15 million people on insurance exchanges would qualify for insurance subsidies -- and the average subsidy would be $4,040 per person.

Kessler added, "Senior lawmakers should not be uttering nonsense math on the House floor."
As for the House debate yesterday, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee, responded to Sessions by saying, "Nobody ever paid $5 million for anybody's health care in a single year. It's the most atrocious thing I think I've heard on this floor."
She added, "Mr. and Ms. America, these are the people you've entrusted your Congress to. They're the people who are writing your budget."