Health law re­peal would ‘boost US econ­omy’

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY AN­DREW TAY­LOR AND RI­CARDO ALONSO-ZAL­DIVAR

Re­peal­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sig­na­ture health care law would mod­estly in­crease the bud­get deficit even as it boosts the U.S. econ­omy, while the num­ber of unin­sured Amer­i­cans would rise by more than 20 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to a non­par­ti­san gov­ern­ment study re­leased Fri­day.

The Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice re­port says that com­pletely re­peal­ing the law would, on av­er­age, in­crease the econ­omy by 0.7 per­cent a year when eco­nomic ef­fects have had a chance to kick in at the start of the ‘20s. That’s mostly be­cause more peo­ple would en­ter the work­force or work more hours to make up for the lack of gov­ern­ment health care sub­si­dies.

But re­peal­ing the law’s spend­ing cuts and tax in­creases would add US$137 bil­lion to the fed­eral deficit over the com­ing decade, CBO says, even as al­most US$1.7 tril­lion in cov­er­age costs would dis­ap­pear. Re­peal would re­duce deficits in the first few years but in­crease them by steadily ris­ing amounts as time goes on.

Re­peal would in­crease the num­ber of unin­sured peo­ple by about 24 mil­lion peo­ple, and the share of U.S. adults with health in­sur­ance would drop from roughly 90 per­cent now to about 82 per­cent, the re­port said.

The CBO pro­vides law­mak­ers with non­par­ti­san bud­get and eco­nomic anal­y­sis. Repub­li­cans con­trol­ling Congress have in­creas­ingly asked the of­fice to in­cor­po­rate a broader range of the ex­pected eco­nomic con­se­quences of ma­jor leg­is­la­tion into its work. CBO an­a­lysts al­ways cau­tion that their stud­ies of leg­is­la­tion can be un­cer­tain, es­pe­cially over many years.

Un­der its tra­di­tional model, CBO would not have taken into ac­count such eco­nomic con­se­quences. Us­ing that ear­lier ap­proach, the agency said deficits from re­peal­ing the law would in­crease by US$353 bil­lion over the com­ing decade. Adding the eco­nomic fac­tors cuts the re­peal’s ef­fect on the deficit by more than half over 10 years, the re­port says.

The bud­get score­keep­ers also of­fered a cau­tion­ary note to Congress: Obama’s law — known as the Af­ford­able Care Act — is by now so en­meshed with the health care sys­tem that up­root­ing it would cre­ate its own is­sues.

“Im­ple­ment­ing a re­peal of the ACA would present ma­jor chal­lenges,” the re­port said. “In the five years since its en­act­ment, nearly ev­ery key pro­vi­sion of the law has taken ef­fect and has been in­cor­po­rated into fi­nal rules and other ad­min­is­tra­tive ac­tions. Un­do­ing the ACA would thus be quite com­pli­cated.”

The study comes as Washington awaits a de­ci­sion from the Supreme Court on whether to nul­lify cov­er­age sub­si­dies in more than 30 states.

In a twist, the bud­get of­fice sug­gested that if those sub­si­dies are cur­tailed, it would re­duce the pro­jected sav­ings from re­peal­ing the rest of the law. That’s be­cause the gov­ern­ment would not be spend­ing money to sub­si­dize cov­er­age for more than 6 mil­lion peo­ple in the af­fected states.

Con­ser­va­tives who brought the law­suit say the law’s lit­eral word­ing pre­vents the fed­eral gov­ern­ment from sub­si­diz­ing pri­vate health in­sur­ance premi­ums in states that failed to set up their own in­sur­ance mar­kets. Most have not done so, re­flect­ing con­tin­ued po­lit­i­cal op­po­si­tion to the pro­gram. The ad­min­is­tra­tion ar­gues that the law in­tended sub­si­dies to be avail­able in all states.

The Supreme Court is ex­pected to is­sue its de­ci­sion by the end of June.

Repub­li­cans in con­trol of the House and Se­nate have said that if the court strikes down sub­si­dies in the mostly Repub­li­can-held states that would be af­fected, they would ad­vance leg­is­la­tion to ease the im­me­di­ate ef­fect on peo­ple who would lose cov­er­age.

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