In 2010, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the Medicaid expansion required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act would cost about $434 billion during the law's first decade. A recent paper suggests the price tag may end up being far higher.
The CBO projected that ObamaCare would add 16 million people to Medicaid, the joint federal/state program that provides medical coverage for the poor and disabled. In the October issue of Health Affairs, a team of Harvard researchers calculate that the number of new Medicaid enrollees could be as low as 8.5 million or as high as 22.4 million. Under the latter scenario, the Medicaid expansion, which the CBO said would represent about half the cost of Obama-Care, would consume nearly $1 trillion over 10 years—more than the entire law was projected to cost in its first decade.
The Harvard researchers, led by professor of health policy and economics Benjamin Sommers, said the size of the Medicaid expansion "will be determined largely by the extent to which federal and state efforts encourage…eligible people" to enroll, which suggests the actual figure will be at the higher end of the spectrum. For political reasons, the Obama administration has a strong incentive to maximize health coverage under the president's signature law.