Ezra Klein on the CBO's Report's Hidden Provision

A health care reform advocate says Baucus's won't be as cheap as we think

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Ezra Klein has been pushing health care reform for years. For most pundits, having a signature issue means always making the case for it, never against it. After all, Thursday's CBO report announcing that Sen. Baucus's health care reform bill will lower the deficit was immediately taken up by liberals as the silver bullet against reform opposition. But Klein didn't rise so quickly to push the party line. While liberals looked for ways to use the CBO report to further reform and conservatives scratched their heads for a way to protest, Klein dug into the facts. It turns out the CBO report wasn't the endorsement it appeared to be:

In the aggregate, the Senate finance bill reduces the deficit. But there are a couple individual years when it increases it. The CBO thus estimates that "the failsafe provisions would require a reduction in exchange subsidies averaging about 15 percent during the years 2015 through 2018." That's a very bad thing, particularly in the first years of the plan. It means that, with no warning, subsidies will be cut by 15 percent, and insurance that families were able to afford the year before will become totally unaffordable. That needs to be changed.

In other words, Baucus's health care plan won't reduce the deficit as much as we think, or maybe at all, because the CBO assumes services would be dramatically cut for four of the ten years it surveyed. This was some serious ammunition to hand to opponents of health care reform. But that didn''t stop Klein from calling our attention to it. By cutting against liberal orthodoxy--even when it could damage the health care agenda at a time when it looks most achievable--Klein offered a model of intellectually responsible and honest commentary.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.