CBO Report Describes Worst, Best Outcomes of Health Reform Law
The federal health reform law could result in 20 million U.S. residents losing employer-sponsored health coverage or three million individuals gaining such coverage in 2019, according to a Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation report released on Thursday, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
The numbers reflect worst- and best-case scenarios and are subject to a "tremendous amount of uncertainty," according to the report. The report notes that the best estimate is that between three million and five million fewer U.S. residents will obtain coverage through their employer annually between 2019 and 2022 (Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/15).
However, the report notes that a "sharp decline" in individuals with employer-sponsored coverage is "unlikely," and even if it did it "would not dramatically increase the cost" to the federal budget.
Whether employers will continue to offer health coverage to their workers has been a major point of contention between supporters and opponents of the health reform law, according to CQ HealthBeat (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 3/15).
Republicans argue that any loss of employer-sponsored coverage could be disruptive even if employees are able to replace it through another source, such as state-based health insurance exchanges or Medicaid.
House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said the report proves that President Obama has broken a promise that the health reform law would not threaten residents' coverage. "As nonpartisan analysts made clear today, millions of Americans will soon learn the hard way that Washington's overreach into their health care decisions will result in sharp disruptions to their coverage and their care," Ryan said (Feder, Politico, 3/15).
Overhaul Opponents Criticize Methodology
Opponents of the overhaul questioned the report on Thursday, with Republicans noting that a number of business surveys found a larger number of employers threatening to drop coverage because of the law. Critics also noted that they expect the subsidies available to U.S. residents to purchase health coverage will drive many away from employer-sponsored coverage.
CBO defended its methodology, saying that the report accounts for the subsidies, but it also accounts for the fact "that the legislation leaves in place some financial incentives and also creates new financial incentives for firms to offer and for many people to obtain health insurance coverage through their employers."
White House Responds
The White House on Thursday argued that the report is on target with previous estimates.
Jeanne Lambrew, deputy assistant to the president for health policy, in a post on the White House blog wrote, "Today's report also does not project major changes in the number of workers who will get coverage through their job." She added that at the time the law was passed, CBO said that three million residents could lose coverage ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 3/15).
Recession Has Accelerated Coverage Decline, Study Finds
In related news, job losses caused by the recession accelerated the trend of fewer U.S. residents getting health coverage through their employer, according to a study released on Thursday by the Center for Studying Health System Change, CQ HealthBeat reports.
The study cited a 10-percentage-point decline in the number of children and working adults who were covered by employer-sponsored plans between 2007 and 2010 (CQ HealthBeat, 3/15).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.