Is the Paul Ryan Obamacare Plan Legal?

The CBO seems to be breaking the law to help out the Paul Ryan Obamacare bailout.

Why would the CBO director want to help the Paul Ryan Obamacare bailout? I don’t know. The Congressional Budget Office is supposed to be nonpartisan. Then again, bailing out Obamacare would be a liberal action. So perhaps, since both liberals and Paul Ryan want Obamacare bailed out, it is perceived as nonpartisan.

But apparently it is still illegal.

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Christopher Jacobs at The Federalist asks: “Is The CBO Director Breaking The Law To Help Paul Ryan Bail Out Obamacare?

Why would an ostensibly nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) director violate the law and the word he gave to Congress only a few short weeks ago? Maybe because Paul Ryan asked him to.

In late January, I wrote about how the House speaker wanted CBO to violate budget rules to make it easier for Congress to pass an Obamacare bailout. At the time, House leadership aides dismissed my theories as unfounded and inaccurate speculation. Yet buried on page 103 of Monday’s report on the budget and economic outlook, CBO did exactly what I reported on earlier this year—it changed the rules, and violated the law, to make it easier for Congress to pass an Obamacare bailout.

The question at the heart of the scorekeeping dispute involves Obamacare’s cost-sharing reductions (CSRs). Last fall, President Trump cancelled those payments to insurers, because Obamacare failed to include a valid constitutional appropriation for them. But after that, insurers built the costs associated with lower cost-sharing—which the statute requires them to provide, whether the CSR payments continue or not—into their premiums for 2018.

Because of the interactions between the (higher) premiums and federal premium subsidies (which went up in turn), the federal government will likely spend more on subsidies this year without making CSR payments than with them.

Therein lay the basis of the budgetary gimmick Ryan and congressional leaders wanted CBO to help them accomplish. House staffers wanted CBO to adjust its baseline and assume the higher levels of spending under the “no-CSR” scenario. By turning around and appropriating funds for CSRs, thereby lowering this higher baseline, Congress could generate budgetary “savings”—which Republicans could spend on more corporate welfare for insurers, in the form of reinsurance payments.

As I previously noted, the House’s scheme, and CBO’s actions on Monday to perpetrate that scheme, violate the law.

Jacobs goes into great detail explaining the illegality of the accounting methods.

Read the full story.

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About the author

Joe Scudder

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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