Politics

CBO Exposes Republican Penchant for Deceit

The road from Obamacare to Trumpcare was paved with lies.

Who knew it was so complicated?

Photographer: Bloomberg

The Congressional Budget Office analysis of the Republican health-care bill did not disappoint. Republicans feared it would be catastrophic. It is. Instead of "better health care for more people at a lesser cost," as President Donald Trump promised, the nonpartisan CBO report released Monday said the Republican plan would drop 24 million from the insurance rolls by the end of the next decade -- and 14 million by 2018.

Republicans have never tried to grapple with the realities of health care. In attacking Obamacare over the past eight years, they alternated between hysteria and subterfuge.

QuickTake Obamacare

When Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010, Republican Senator Tom Coburn announced that, as a result of the ACA's passage, "There will be no insurance industry left in three years."

Since Coburn, who is now retired, rang the industry's death knell, insurance stocks are up around 100 percent.

In 2011, Paul Ryan, then the House Budget Committee chairman, predicted that the Affordable Care Act would "collapse under its own weight."

Six years later, the ACA is providing health insurance, via Medicaid and private insurance exchanges, to roughly 20 million Americans.

That same year, then-Speaker of the House John Boehner said that the ACA "will bankrupt our nation, and it will ruin our economy!”

In reality, as the ACA came into effect, the U.S. economy grew, job growth accelerated and the federal deficit declined.

These were not the comments of cranks. Until Trump's election, Boehner and Ryan were, in succession, the highest ranking Republicans in the land. Coburn, in addition to being a doctor, had a reputation as one of the more principled fiscal conservatives in Washington.

Republican rhetoric on the ACA started out reckless and never really improved. Sarah Palin gets too much credit; plenty of mainstream Republicans played the game. In 2009, Republican Senator Charles Grassley, the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, where he was intimately involved in substantive negotiations on the ACA, went home to Iowa and pretended that the bill included death panels. "We should not have a government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on grandma," he said at a town hall.

The beat goes on. Republicans spent the past week preemptively bashing the CBO knowing that it would expose Trump's promises as a sham. On Sunday, Trump's Health and Human Services secretary Tom Price told Chuck Todd, "I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially" from the GOP health-care bill. Price didn't have the devastating numbers from CBO in hand. But the former House Budget Committee chairman had written his own health-care bill when he was in Congress. He surely knew he was not telling anything remotely like the truth.

One thing about people who accustom themselves to deceit is that, sooner or later, they start lying to one another as well as to themselves. Health care discussions between the White House and Congressional Republicans promise to be loads of fun in the days ahead.  

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

    To contact the author of this story:
    Francis Wilkinson at fwilkinson1@bloomberg.net

    To contact the editor responsible for this story:
    Jonathan Landman at jlandman4@bloomberg.net

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