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CBO's Latest Projections Out. Reason for Relief? And Concern?

CBO is out with its rough estimates of the Senate Finance bill as it looks now, following the amendments made during the recent markup hearings. Here's my initial take, informed loosely by a few conversations with experts and insiders:

The good news, substantively and politically, is that CBO expects the measure would reduce budget deficits by $81 billion over the next decade and by even larger sums in the following decade. (It won't say exactly how much it expects the bill to reduce deficits over the following decades, given that it's hard to be specific with such long-range estimates.)

The coverage news is not quite so good--although, to be honest, it's better than I expected, given the rumors running around today. CBO estimates that, as of 2019, 94 percent of legal non-elderly residents and 91 percent of all non-elderly residents would have insurance.

That's significantly lower than the projections from the House bill, which would result in corresponding figures of 97 percent and 94 percent. In raw numbers, it's the difference between 25 million people (Senate Finance bill) and 17 million (House bills) still uninsured ten years from now.

Of course, those numbers involve a lot of uncertainty. Their significance is that they correspond to a particular level of benefits and financial assistance, at least in the calculations of the CBO.

And this is something we've known for a while: The Senate Finance bill isn't as generous or as protective as it ought to be.

But the fact that the measure would actually save money means, or should mean, there's a bit more room (financially and politically) to throw additional funds at expanding/improving insurance coverage--ideally, by raising a little more money in taxes and/or offsetting savings.

Remember, the difference between covering people at the level of the Senate Finance bill and covering something close to all legal residents* is maybe $150 billion over ten years. That's not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things.

More analysis to come, probably tomorrow...

*As always, I'd much prefer to cover all residents, including those here illegally.

Update: Wonk Room has a nice comparison chart of the scores before and after the amendments.   Ezra Klein has found one rather worrisome passage. And Chris Frates has a really important caveat. Note that I also have updated this item, to clarify meaning and to emphasize this is very much an initial, tentative take. .