Instead of the House Republicans breaking their own proposed “CutGo” rule to offset the cost of all spending increases, they have chosen to carve a multi-billion dollar loophole, specifically exempting the $143 billion 10-year cost of repealing health care reform.
By brazenly doing so, House Republican leaders are tacitly admitting that 1) health care reform is deficit reduction, and 2) their claims of fiscal responsibility are completely empty.
Not only is health care reform the equivalent of deficit reduction, health care reform is the only serious path to deficit reduction. The CBO estimates the savings of the Affordable Care Act to be $1 trillion over the next two decades, and many health care experts believe that’s a conservative estimate because the cost-control provisions are inherently experimental.
To exempt heath care reform from a deficit reduction rule is to not have a deficit reduction rule.
These so-called fiscal conservatives are rationalizing the move as necessary because, in the words of the spokesman for the incoming Speaker John Boehner, “no one believes” the estimates from Congressional Budget Office, which are the linchpin for all congressional budget rules.
But Boehner was quite willing to believe the CBO when it concluded that early drafts of health reform legislation would increase the deficit. So did every other leading Republican congressperson.
It was only when Democrats modified the legislation in response to CBO concerns did top Republicans suddenly find the CBO to be unbelievable.
And many health care experts find the CBO to be very believable on the point that the health reform bill will cut the deficit. They only question whether the CBO is underestimating how much the deficit will be cut.
That’s because health reform does more than expand coverage, help low-income Americans pay for insurance and provide tax incentives for small businesses to provide health benefits. It also implements a slew of experimental cost-control measures, some of which will likely work better than others, allowing for reform to be improved over time. But the specific savings can’t be easily projected ahead of time.
So the Republican rationalization for creating a multi-billion dollar loophole in their own deficit reduction rule, before the rule can even be implemented, should be mercilessly mocked and dismissed.
Health care reform is deficit reduction. And House Republicans just admitted it.