White House 'Reality Check’ Web Site Claims Health Care Reform ‘Would Not Add One Penny to Deficit’ Despite CBO Reports to Contrary

August 10, 2009 - 3:32 PM
A new Web site launched Monday by the Obama administration to rebut alleged myths about proposed health care reform claims that reform "would not add one penny to the deficit," but CBO numbers say otherwise.

Logo for the White House Web site on health care reform,

(CNSNews.com) – A new Web site launched Monday by the Obama administration to rebut alleged disinformation about the administration's efforts to reform the health care system claims that reform “would not add one penny to the deficit"--despite the fact that the two health care reform bills that have been analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office are predicted by the CBO to increase the national debt by $239 billion and $1.042 trillion respectively.

The administration, meanwhile, has not produced any health-care reform legislation that has been independently determined to be deficit-neutral.
 
Appearing on CNN yesterday, Linda Douglass, communications director for the White House Office of Health Reform, said that the new Web site that premiered today has been designed to defeat disinformation and make sure people "can get the facts" about health care reform.

"You know, one of the things we're going to be doing this week is making available a Web site where people can go to get the facts about health insurance reform," Douglass said in an interview with CNN's Howard Kurtz. "There's a lot of misinformation, and there is, as I said in the video, a lot of disinformation. That's information that's meant to mislead you. So, we're going to have a new site where people can go, they can get the facts, they can share it with family and friends."

But in its first day of operation the Web site claimed that the reform "will not add one penny to the deficit," a claim that cannot be made for any bill that has been drafted in Congress and analyzed by the CBO.

The “Frequently Asked Questions” section of the new “Reality Check” Web site says: “This legislation is going to cost more than a trillion dollars, how can we afford that?”

Part of the answer the White House provides to its own question says: “Health insurance reform would be fully paid for over 10 years, and it will not add one penny to the deficit.”

This does not square with any extant CBO analysis.

Five congressional committees (three in the House and two in the Senate) have been working on the health-care reform legislation. In the House, the Education and Ways and Means committees have produced a bill, and the Energy and Commerce Committee has produced a bill. The CBO has analyzed the Education/Ways and Means bill, but not the Energy and Commerce bill, which was released just before the House left for the August recess.

In the Senate, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee has produced a bill that has been analyzed by CBO, but the Finance Committee, which is also working on the issue, has not produced a bill that has been analyzed by CBO.

The CBO has estimated that the House Ways and Means bill would add $239 billion to the deficit over ten years, and that the Senate HELP Committte bill would add $1.042 trillion to the deficit over ten years.

The House Ways and Means bill keeps the deficit down to $239 billion because it proposes increasing taxes by $583 billion.
 
On July 17, the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) sent a preliminary analysis to House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who oversaw the drafting of H.R. 3200.

“According to CBO’s and JCT’s assessment, enacting H.R. 3200 would result in a net increase in the federal budget deficit of $239 billion over the 2010-2019 period,” the analysis says. “That estimate reflects a projected 10-year cost of the bill’s insurance coverage provisions of $1,042 billion over the same period, and by revenue provisions that JCT estimates would increase federal revenues by about $583 billion over those 10 years.”

In a July 15 letter to Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the CBO gave a preliminary assessment of the Affordable Health Choices Act proposed by HELP.

“According to the assessment, enacting the proposal would result in a net increase in the federal budget deficits of about $1.0 trillion over the 2010-2019 period,” the analysis says.

CNSNews.com asked the White House if it had any data that could validate the claim that health care reform will be paid for in 10 years and will not increase the federal deficit. CNSNews.com also asked if it could cite any legislation scored by the CBO that shows the plan would not increase the federal deficit.

The White House press office responded by e-mailing links: one to President Obama’s federal budget for fiscal year 2010 and another to a Medicare Fact Sheet.