Last Friday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report outlining the financial impact of repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”). According to the study, a repeal of ACA would cause the federal deficit to increase by $137 billion between 2016 and 2025.
Supporters of Obamacare may view the report in a positive light. The financials are compelling: repeal Obamacare and run up the deficit by $137 billion. In terms of human impact, a repeal would cause at least 19 to 24 million individuals to lose their health insurance. Since the majority of ACA’s regulations have already been put into practice, the complexity of enacting such a repeal would be monumental.
The report comes at a time when the Supreme Court is expected to deliver its ruling on King v. Burwell. A ruling for the plaintiff would mean that federal subsidies for health insurance would only be available to individuals who buy insurance through state-run health exchanges. Thirty-four states have not created exchanges. Therefore, enrollees in those states would not be eligible for subsidies. Approximately 6.4 million people fall into this category. They could lose their subsidies, and maybe even their health insurance.
The fallout of such a verdict could be politically, financially and personally devastating for millions of Americans. Republican-led calls for an ACA repeal could gain significant momentum. Democrats could use the CBO’s report to counter these demands by putting a cost – a big one – on the effects of a repeal.
Or, one could just view the information in the report as irrelevant.
The report is not necessarily a “pro-ACA” document. All it says is that the United States is going to drive up the deficit if no new health policy is in place. In other words, the U.S. health system will be a drag on the economy if no significant changes to its structure are made. But — we knew this already. Plenty of reports have indicated that U.S. health system is sub-standard. It’s the reason ACA was implemented in the first place.
The real reason that ACA has not been repealed has nothing to do with Supreme Court verdicts or reports prepared by the Congressional Budget Office. ACA is in place and is moving towards complete implementation because no other viable options have been presented. Until they are, President Obama’s signature legislation – embattled, bruised and battered as it is – will survive.