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More Good News on Obamacare, Just When Democrats Need It

Today the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its latest Obamacare report card (pdf), and for supporters of the law, the news is good: CBO now projects that over 10 years the law will cover more people—25 million, up from 24 million—and cost a lot less—$104 billion less—than it had previously forecast.

This comes on the heels of the other recent bit of good news, that the law has exceeded its enrollment target of 7 million people. Last week, outgoing HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told Congress that 7.5 million people had signed up during the open enrollment period, which was supposed to end on the last day of March. Since the Obama administration decided to grant anyone who’d begun the signup process before the March 31 deadline an extension until April 15 to complete their enrollment, the final number could approach 8 million people.


As the chart below from the CBO report shows, this is not the first time that the Affordable Care Act’s cost estimates have fallen:

What accounts for the drop? One big factor is that insurance premiums wound up being about 15 percent lower than CBO had originally estimated. That, in turn, means government subsidies to help people pay for insurance coverage have been less costly—about $300 less per person, CBO estimates.

This is propitious news for Democrats because, due to Sebelius’s impending departure, they’re about to get dragged into relitigating Obamacare. Republicans are planning to use the confirmation hearings for Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who has been nominated to succeed Sebelius, to beat up on the law (some more). The fact that its cost projections keep falling will make that a little harder.

Green is senior national correspondent for Bloomberg Businessweek in Washington. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaGreen.

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