Obamacare Cost Jumps $111 Billion; No One Notices

It is tempting to ignore President Obama’s budgets, since no one seriously intends that they be adopted; his FY 2012 budget was voted down in the Senate, 97-0. Yet every now and then, interesting information is buried in the fine print. Table 33-1 of the budget sets forth the proposed spending for federal programs by agency and account. In President Obama’s FY 2012 budget, this is the line item for one aspect of Obamacare–the Refundable Premium Assistance Tax Credit, which subsidizes the purchase of health insurance by individuals on the insurance exchange that the statute would establish. The fiscal years covered by this estimate are 2014 through 2021:

If you do the math, you will see that the total amount budgeted for this line item for those years adds up to an enormous amount of money, $366.699 billion. But in this year’s budget, those same numbers have suddenly jumped even higher. Here is the same line item from President Obama’s FY 2013 budget, for fiscal years 2014 through 2022:

If you add up the numbers for fiscal years 2014 through 2021 to get an accurate comparison, spending on these Obamacare subsidies is now estimated at $477.834 billion, an increase of more than $111 billion.

What is the reason for this enormous increase in projected Obamacare spending? Last week, Kathleen Sebelius testified, in her usual imperious way, before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee. Senator Ron Johnson, one of the bright lights in that body, asked her a series of questions about the cost projections for Obamacare. Sebelius didn’t seriously try to answer any of them. Among others, Johnson asked Sebelius about this $111 billion increase in the budget for mandatory outlays for the health care exchange. Sebelius acknowledged that the increase is there, but wasn’t asked, and didn’t volunteer, the reason.

There is one obvious explanation: President Obama has long assured Americans that if they like the health insurance they have, they can keep it. Numerous studies have poked holes in this claim, as it seems clear that large numbers of employers–some say 50%–will terminate their health care benefits and dump all of their employees into the yet-to-be-created exchange system. Does the administration’s $111 billion increase in the estimated cost of Obamacare represent an admission that far more people will be deprived of employer-provided health insurance than has previously been acknowledged? I am not sure; but if that isn’t the reason, what is?

It isn’t clear who first said, in connection with federal spending, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you are talking about real money.” But the Obama administration has rendered this once-cynical formula obsolete. In the Age of Obama, it is a hundred billion here, and a hundred billion there; and pretty soon you are not just talking about real money, you are talking about a bankrupt country..

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