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Economist: The GOP Healthcare Plan Can’t Be Scored by the CBO

Written by Joe Scudder

The GOP healthcare plan give states too much power for the CBO to figure out what will happen.

Economist and Bloomberg columnist, Megan McArdle argues that the GOP healthcare bill has “broken” the Congressional Budget Office, and that this is a good thing. McArdle isn’t always reliable for liberty-oriented Conservatives, but she is sometimes quite insightful. In this case, she thinks that the CBO was broken because they cannot score the GOP healthcare bill.

She writes:

Forget the headline numbers from the Congressional Budget Office’s latest score for the Republican health-care bill. The score tells us something much more important, and much less remarked: Republicans have broken the CBO. They’ve passed a bill that, for all intents and purposes, cannot be scored by the normal CBO process. I don’t say that they’ve done this deliberately, mind you — in fact, I’m pretty sure they it wasn’t premeditated. But they’ve done it just the same.

Oh, the fine folks at the CBO have gone in and given it their best try, and that’s what produced the headline numbers you’ve read: 14 million fewer people insured by 2018, 23 million by 2026, and a net reduction in the deficit of $119 billion in the coming decade. But after that, it starts getting a little weird. Premiums will go up for a while, and then maybe down for some people but up for others, and it’s hard to get an average … this score has a whole lot of caveats, more “difficult to predict” and “estimate uncertain,” than longtime CBO watchers are primed to expect.


It relies so heavily on state level waivers that the CBO simply has no way of predicting, even imperfectly, what’s going to happen.

This means that, despite problems, the GOP healthcare plan is truly decentralized and give a significant amount of power to the states.

Read the rest of Megan McArdle’s column.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by

About the author

Joe Scudder

Joe Scudder is the "nom de plume" (or "nom de guerre") of a fifty-ish-year-old writer and stroke survivor. He lives in St Louis with his wife and still-at-home children. He has been a freelance writer and occasional political activist since the early nineties. He describes his politics as Tolkienesque.

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