CBO and the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) have released an analysis of the budgetary effects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Senate Amendment 2786 in the nature of a substitute to H.R. 3590 (as printed in the Congressional Record on November 19, 2009), incorporating the effects of changes proposed in the manager’s amendment released earlier today. The estimate does not include the effects of other amendments adopted during the Senate’s consideration of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; it also does not reflect an incremental effect on PPACA from Congressional action on H.R. 3326, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2010, which was cleared earlier today. Throughout this blog entry, references to “the legislation” mean the act as originally proposed and incorporating the manager’s amendment.
The manager’s amendment would make a number of changes to the act as originally proposed. The changes with the largest budgetary effects include: expanding eligibility for a small business tax credit; increasing penalties on certain uninsured people; replacing the “public plan” that would be run by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with “multi-state” plans that would be offered under contract with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM); deleting provisions that would increase payment rates for physicians under Medicare; and increasing the payroll tax on higher-income individuals and families.
Estimated Budgetary Impact
CBO and JCT estimate that the direct spending and revenue effects of enacting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act incorporating the manager’s amendment would yield a net reduction in federal deficits of $132 billion over the 2010-2019 period. Of that total amount of deficit reduction, the manager’s amendment accounts for about $2 billion, and the act as originally proposed accounts for the remaining $130 billion. (See our analysis released on November 18 of the act as originally proposed.)
The estimate includes a projected net cost of $614 billion over 10 years for the proposed expansions in insurance coverage. That net cost itself reflects a gross total of $871 billion in subsidies provided through the exchanges, increased net outlays for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and tax credits for small employers; those costs are partly offset by $149 billion in revenues from the excise tax on high-premium insurance plans and $108 billion in net savings from other sources. Over the 2010–2019 period, the net cost of the coverage expansions would be more than offset by the combination of other spending changes that CBO estimates would save $483 billion and other provisions that JCT and CBO estimate would increase federal revenues by $264 billion. In total, the legislation would increase outlays by $366 billion and increase revenues by $498 billion between 2010 and 2019.
Effects of Provisions Regarding Insurance Coverage
By 2019, CBO and JCT estimate, the number of nonelderly people who are uninsured would be reduced by about 31 million, leaving about 23 million nonelderly residents uninsured (about one-third of whom would be unauthorized immigrants). Under the legislation, the share of legal nonelderly residents with insurance coverage would rise from about 83 percent currently to about 94 percent. Approximately 26 million people would purchase their own coverage through the new insurance exchanges, and there would be roughly 15 million more enrollees in Medicaid and CHIP than is projected under current law. Relative to currently projected levels, the number of people purchasing individual coverage outside the exchanges would decline by about 5 million. The number of people obtaining coverage through their employer would be about 4 million lower in 2019 under the legislation, CBO and JCT estimate.
The proposal would call on OPM to contract for two national or multi-state health insurance plans—one of which would have to be nonprofit—that would be offered through the insurance exchanges. Whether insurers would be interested in offering such plans is unclear, and establishing a nationwide plan comprising only nonprofit insurers might be particularly difficult. Even if such plans were arranged, the insurers offering them would probably have participated in the insurance exchanges anyway, so the inclusion of this provision did not have a significant effect on the estimates of federal costs or enrollment in the exchanges.
Effects on Health Insurance Premiums
On November 30, CBO released an analysis prepared by CBO and JCT of the expected impact on average premiums for health insurance in different markets of the as originally proposed. Although CBO and JCT have not updated the estimates provided in that letter, the effects on premiums of the legislation incorporating the manager’s amendment would probably be quite similar. Replacing the provisions for a public plan run by HHS with provisions for a multi-state plan under contract with OPM is unlikely to have much effect on average insurance premiums because the existence of that public plan would not substantially change the average premiums that would be paid in the exchanges. The provisions contained in the manager’s amendment to regulate the share of premiums devoted to administrative costs would tend to lower premiums slightly, and the provisions prohibiting the imposition of annual limits on coverage would tend to raise premiums slightly.
Effects of the Legislation Beyond the First 10 Years
Although CBO does not generally provide cost estimates beyond the 10-year budget projection period (2010 through 2019 currently), many Members have requested CBO analyses of the long-term impact of broad changes in the nation’s health care and health insurance systems. A detailed year-by-year projection, like those that CBO prepares for the 10-year budget window, would not be meaningful because the uncertainties involved are simply too great. CBO has therefore developed a rough outlook for the decade following the 10-year budget window.
All told, the legislation incorporating the manager’s amendment would reduce the federal deficit by $16 billion in 2019, CBO and JCT estimate. In the decade after 2019, the gross cost of the coverage expansion would probably exceed 1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), but the added revenues and cost savings would probably be greater. Consequently, CBO expects that the legislation, if enacted, would reduce federal budget deficits over the ensuing decade relative to those projected under current law—with a total effect during that decade that is in a broad range around one-half percent of GDP. The imprecision of that calculation reflects the even greater degree of uncertainty that attends to it, compared with CBO’s 10-year budget estimates. The expected reduction in deficits would represent a small share of the total deficits that would be likely to arise in that decade under current policies.
Relative to the legislation as originally proposed, the expected reduction in deficits during the 2020–2029 period is larger for the legislation incorporating the manager’s amendment. Most of that difference arises because the manager’s amendment would lower the threshold for Medicare spending growth that would trigger recommendations for spending reductions by the Independent Payment Advisory Board.
Many Members have expressed interest in the effects of reform proposals on various other measures of spending on health care. One such measure is the “federal budgetary commitment to health care,” a term that CBO uses to describe the sum of net federal outlays for health programs and tax preferences for health care—providing a broad measure of the resources committed by the federal government that includes both its spending for health care and the subsidies for health care that are conveyed through reductions in federal taxes. Under the legislation, CBO estimates that the federal budgetary commitment to health care during the next 10 years would be about $200 billion higher than under current law, driven primarily by the gross cost of the coverage expansions (including increases in both outlays and tax credits). Beyond 2019, the effects of the proposal that would tend to decrease the federal budgetary commitment to health care would grow faster than those that would increase it. As a result, CBO expects that the proposal would generate a reduction in the federal budgetary commitment to health care during the decade following the 10-year budget window.
These longer-term calculations assume that the provisions are enacted and remain unchanged throughout the next two decades. However, the legislation would maintain and put into effect a number of procedures that might be difficult to sustain over a long period of time. Under current law and under the proposal, payment rates for physicians’ services in Medicare would be reduced by about 21 percent in 2010 and then decline further in subsequent years. At the same time, the legislation includes a number of provisions that would constrain payment rates for other providers of Medicare services. In particular, increases in payment rates for many providers would be held below the rate of inflation. The projected longer-term savings for the legislation also assume that the Independent Payment Advisory Board is fairly effective in reducing costs beyond the reductions that would be achieved by other aspects of the legislation.
Based on the longer-term extrapolation, CBO expects that inflation-adjusted Medicare spending per beneficiary would increase at an average annual rate of less than 2 percent during the next two decades under the legislation—about half of the roughly 4 percent annual growth rate of the past two decades. It is unclear whether such a reduction in the growth rate could be achieved, and if so, whether it would be accomplished through greater efficiencies in the delivery of health care or would reduce access to care or diminish the quality of care.