Wednesday, August 22, 2012

CBO Report Exposes Record of Obamanomics

The Congressional Budget Office released its updated economic forecasts this morning and, today as before, the results reflect the Obama Administration’s “stewardship” of the economy.  In the health care sector, CBO made some significant updates to its baseline, reflecting both economic and technical changes.  With respect to the former, because economic productivity has lagged, and because most Medicare payment rates for hospitals and other providers are linked to “market-basket” updates of goods and services, CBO raised projected Medicare spending based on this economic factor.  From page 52 of the report:

CBO’s current projections of productivity are lower than they were in its previous forecast, and its projected prices for goods and services (including the cost of both labor and non-labor inputs) are now higher.  Consequently, CBO now anticipates higher payment rates for Medicare than it forecast in March, a change that raises projected outlays by $136 billion (or about 2 percent) over the 2013–2022 period.  In the Medicaid program, higher projected prices for medical services and the cost of labor are also expected to boost spending, by $27 billion, between 2013 and 2022.

Admittedly, CBO made a larger downward adjustment ($169 billion) in projected Medicare spending, which it termed a technical adjustment to reflect the current slowdown in health spending.  However, the Medicare actuary and others have said much of this slowdown is linked to the poorly recovering economy – which means spending could pick up whenever the economy fully recovers.

Either way, however, the report reflects an indictment on the Obama economy – lower productivity growth raising Medicare spending, offset only by people cutting back on health expenditures because they can’t afford to go to the doctor.  That’s not evidence Obamacare is working – that’s evidence the “stimulus” didn’t.

A couple of other related points from the CBO report:

  • According to the updated baseline, the federal government will in 2022 spend a total of $1.064 trillion on Medicare, and $592 billion on Medicaid (not counting the state share of Medicaid payments).  The vast – and vastly increasing – amounts of money the federal government is spending on these programs makes the best case for comprehensive entitlement reform.
  • The update projects the decade-long cost of a freeze in Medicare physician payments at $245 billion.  If said legislation is not paid for, CBO estimates debt service payments on the $245 billion would total an additional $36 billion.