Analysis: Obamacare to cost $2.6 trillion over first full decade

Sally Nelson Contributor
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President Barack Obama promised his health-care law would cost approximately $900 billion over ten years when he first proposed it.

Since then, the price tag has continued to climb. Total spending under the Affordable Care Act will reach $2.6 trillion over its first full decade, according to a Senate Budget Committee analysis, which was based on Congressional Budget Office estimates and growth rates.

The analysis was released by the committee’s ranking member Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions, of Alabama.

The president announced his proposal to a joint session of Congress in 2009, saying: “[The] plan I’m proposing will cost around $900 billion over 10 years — less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed at the beginning of the previous administration.”

The CBO found that the president’s claim fell short by $5 billion, however, when leveled against their estimates of spending provisions necessary for the new law. Adding up costs like implementation and closing Medicare coverage gaps, the CBO estimated that the law would cost $1.4 trillion from fiscal year 2010 to 2019.

But the majority of the spending provisions do not take effect until 2014, four years into the decade Obama based his estimates on.

“Congressional Democrats delayed these provisions in order to show only six years of spending under the plan in the original 10-year budget window (from FY2010-19) used by CBO at the time the law was enacted,” said the press release.

Thus, an estimate of the law’s cost must cover 2014-2023, the first decade the Affordable Care Act will be in full swing. The Senate Budget Committee found that total spending over that period will amount to at least $2.6 trillion.

After the Supreme Court upheld the law as constitutional, the CBO promised to score the law again and release that score the week of July 23.

“CBO is still assessing the effects of the Supreme Court’s decision related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on the agency’s projections of federal spending and revenue under current law,” CBO Director Doug Elmendorf wrote in a Monday blog post.

The budget committee analysis comes the same day that House Republicans voted to repeal Obamacare.

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Sally Nelson