Why CBO won’t estimate the cost of Bernie Sanders’ ‘Medicare for all’ bill

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A recent study The finding that Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) “Medicare for all” bill would cost $32 trillion has sparked heated debate over the cost of the plan.

But there’s one estimate that would cause even more of a stir: the score from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

{mosads} However, it does not appear that CBO is working on an expense estimate, despite a request from Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who requested a cost analysis in September to highlight the high costs of Medicare for All, also known as Single Payer.

Barrasso told The Hill last week that he did not recall receiving a response from the CBO, suggesting his request had not been granted.

The CBO declined to comment, but former administrators have said that the fact that passing single-payer legislation is not a priority for the Republican-controlled Congress means the CBO is unlikely to spend money. time to score the bill.

Doug Elmendorf, a former CBO director, said the budget official is only required to provide estimates for bills that have come out of committee and that other measures he notes are usually the priority of a president or a rank member.

Elmendorf, who served as the CBO’s director from 2009 to 2015, noted that “it would take months” for the CBO to score a bill as complex as a single payer.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘Is there likely to be serious legislative action on this?’ And clearly the answer to that question is no,” said Robert Reischauer, who was director of the CBO in the 1990s before taking over as head of the Urban Institute.

CBO staff are busy working on more pressing legislation, Reischauer said. “Cost estimating units are typically operating at capacity or overcapacity,” he said. “It’s not like they can accept all requests.”

Release of the crucial spending analysis will therefore likely wait until the measure moves through Congress and appears to have a chance of passing.

Republicans have singled out Democratic single-payer calls as a key rebuttal to this year’s midterm campaign, part of an effort to fend off Democratic attacks on GOP bills to repeal ObamaCare. A CBO score ahead of the Nov. 6 election would give Republicans key analysis to point to on the campaign trail.

The releases of the CBO estimates were pivotal in last year’s debate over Republican efforts to repeal ObamaCare, with analyzes showing millions of people would lose coverage under GOP-backed legislation.

A CBO score would likely prove crucial again with Sanders’ single-payer plan, as opponents criticized the trillions of dollars in new government spending that would be required.

Reischauer said that in this case, “opponents or people who want to embarrass supporters of the plan want it and no one else does.”

The release of an outside study from the right-wing Mercatus Center at George Mason University in late July provided a taste of the frenzy that would ensue when a CBO score of single-payer legislation was released.

Republicans seized on the Mercatus study’s conclusion that a government-run single-payer health insurance system for all U.S. residents would cost the government an additional $32 trillion over 10 years.

Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) called the cost “absurd.” The Republican National Committee cited the study to say Sanders’ plan would bankrupt taxpayers.

Barrasso pointed to the Mercatus study as fodder for the GOP in the absence of a CBO analysis.

“There were a number of different reports, $32 trillion,” Barrasso said. “It looks like we have some pretty solid numbers on how much it will cost.”

But Sanders also touted the report, just a different aspect of it. He pointed to the finding that total US spending on health care, as opposed to the government’s share alone, would decline by $2 trillion over 10 years under his legislation.

Elmendorf, pointing to back-to-back decisions that go into any CBO score, said the agency may not estimate the bill’s effects on total U.S. health care spending, since its primary mission is to review spending. of the government. To leave out this part of the analysis would deprive Sanders of a key argument for his bill.

“I think they would if they had enough time,” Elmendorf said.

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