The Congressional Budget Office has updated its projections of the ten-year federal costs associated with the insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act, and the numbers show an even lighter impact than before on the budget from subsidy payments. Here’s WaPo’s Jason Millman:
The health-care law’s expansion of insurance coverage will cost $104 billion less than projected over the next decade, according to revised estimates from nonpartisan budget analysts Monday. Obamacare’s lower-than-expected costs will come largely because premiums will be cheaper than previously thought.
Obamacare’s coverage provisions in 2014 are expected to cost $5 billion less than the $41 billion the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation projected earlier in the year. The CBO now expects the federal government to spend about $164 billion less in the next decade on subsidies in Obamacare health insurance marketplaces. The CBO’s expected costs of the Affordable Care Act’s coverage provisions have declined since it was signed four years ago.
As Kevin Drum observes, there’s a downside to the good cost news:
[T]he lower cost of premiums is primarily because the quality of the plans coming from insurers is lower than CBO originally estimated: “The plans being offered through exchanges in 2014 appear to have, in general, lower payment rates for providers, narrower networks of providers, and tighter management of their subscribers’ use of health care than employment-based plans do. Those features allow insurers that offer plans through the exchanges to charge lower premiums (although they also make plans somewhat less attractive to potential enrollees).”
Kevin also notes the rather important news that CBO estimates the exchanges have not produced the sort of decline in employer-based coverage that some critics anticipated; indeed, employer-based coverage has increased by a robust 7 million policies since Obamacare enrollment began last year. But none of this data will interfere with the selective-data and anecdotally driven litany of horrors about Obamacare you’d hear if your main source of information is conservative media.
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