With the U.S. Supreme Court set to rule on a key element of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated the financial impact of repealing the health law on the economy.
Striking down Obamacare, as the federal insurance program is called, would increase the nation's budget deficit by a net $137 billion over a 10-year period, according to the nonpartisan CBO, which analyzes budgetary and economic issues on behalf of lawmakers.
The total budget gap between 2016 and 2025 would rise by $353 billion as a result of eliminating Obamacare, according to the CBO, which produced the report the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT).
Over the longer term, that widening gap would be partially offset by faster economic growth. The agencies estimate that repealing the ACA would boost gross domestic product by about 0.7 percent over the 2021-2025 period. That is because Obamacare allowed many people to quit their jobs. Eliminating the program would force many of them to return to work in order to get health insurance. As a result, increased economic output would cut federal deficits by $216 billion over the 2016-2025 period.
Repealing the ACA would increase the national deficit by growing amounts after 2025 because the net savings attributable to a repeal of the law's insurance coverage provisions would grow more slowly than the estimated tab of repealing the ACA's other provisions, in particular those that reduce updates to Medicare's payments, the CBO and JCT found.
The report cautioned the budgetary and economic effects of repealing the ACA, which became law in March 2010, could differ substantially in either direction, saying the $137 billion figure is its "best estimate."
The Supreme Court is expected to rule by the end of the month on the legality of the federal subsidies that make Obamacare affordable for millions of Americans. Opponents of the law argue that only residents of states that established their own insurance markets are eligible for subsidies to help pay their premiums. The Obama administration says the law provides for subsidies in all 50 states.
Scrapping the health law would also greatly increase the number of Americans without health coverage. Repealing the ACA would boost the number of uninsured by an estimated 19 million in 2016, climbing to as many as 24 million through 2025, the analysis found.
In most of those years, people with employment-based coverage would increase by about 8 million, and those with coverage bought individually or obtained through Medicaid would drop by between 30 million and 32 million, according to the agencies.
The partisan battle that accompanied the law's passage came into play again with the CBO's release.
"The cost to the deficit would be surpassed only by the human toll of repeal. Republicans would add over 20 million Americans to the ranks of the uninsured," Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D.-California, said in a statement. "Republicans should look at the numbers and finally end their fixation with repealing this historic law."
Putting an opposite spin on the CBO's finding, Kentucky Senator Mitch O'Connell, a Republican, bypassed the deficit projections to tout the estimated growth in GDP, saying in a tweet, "The CBO says an Obamacare repeal actually boosts the American economy."