CBO Says Baucus Health-Care Plan Will Reduce Deficit If Executed as Planned, Which Probably Won't Happen


After a brief delay, the CBO has released its revised score of the Senate Finance Committee bill, and its projections are good news for liberal reformers. The big takeaways: The bill would reduce the deficit by $81 billion over ten years, an increase from the $49 billion in projected savings in the previous score. The bill would also cover 94 percent of legal residents in the U.S.,  which, according to the CBO's estimates, would leave "about 25 million nonelderly residents uninsured (about one-third of whom would be unauthorized immigrants)."

This is a big win for Baucus and other reform supporters, but, as with the last score, it comes with some caveats. The CBO cautions that its projections are uncertain and subject to change if legislation isn't followed to the letter—which, in the case of the Medicare cuts designed to pay for much of the bill's tab and produce the bulk of its savings, is highly likely. Greg Mankiw's translation of the previous score's concluding cautions still applies: "In other words, the plan would reduce the deficit if it were carried out as written, but there is good reason based on historical experience to be skeptical that it would be." On the other hand, there's also good reason to believe that, regardless of precedent, what the CBO says goes. So when the CBO says a bill will bring down the deficit, everyone in Congress ends up acting as if that's true.