BY MICHAEL SHEPHERD

Staff Writer

“And, as if all of this was not enough, the largest federal program ever devised, Obamacare, is now poised to take control of (one-fifth) of our economy.”

— Secretary of State Charlie Summers’ campaign “message” Web page

There’s no way around it: The Republican nominee to replace Olympia Snowe in the U.S. Senate deviates wildly from authoritative analyses on the subject.

A Congressional Budget Office estimate in March said that from 2012 to 2022, the law’s insurance provisions should have a net cost of slightly more than $1.2 trillion after certain offsets. On a yearly basis, the expected annual cost averages out to about $154 billion from 2016 to 2022.

In March 2011, the Congressional Budget Office’s director testified that the law probably will reduce the federal deficit by $210 billion because of changes “in direct spending and revenues” from 2012 to 2021.

It could be less of a reduction, however, because the CLASS Act, a long-term care insurance program, accounted for $86 billion of savings in the 2011 estimate. Later that year, the Obama administration said it wouldn’t implement that portion of the act.

So to recap, Obamacare is costly, but it may be offset enough to reduce spending. But is it, as Summers said, the biggest federal program ever?

It can’t be.

The March estimate put gross costs of Obamacare from 2012 to 2019 at slightly more than $1 trillion.

However, government programs such as Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, also established through congressional actions, dwarf Obamacare, and they’re ballooning.

A January outlook by the Congressional Budget Office says net Medicare spending from 2013 to 2022 was projected at more than $6.5 trillion, while the feds are expected to pay nearly $4.5 trillion to Medicaid.

Social Security’s even bigger: the outlook estimates spending on that at more than $10.5 trillion. In 2017, we are expected to spend more than $1 trillion on Social Security in a year for the first time.

Obamacare pales in comparison to those relics of progressive administrations of years past.

As for Summers’ “one-fifth” statement, that looks off-base after cobbling together statistics from groups that are watching the health care debate closely.

The Altarum Institute, a nonprofit health systems research company, reported in May that health care spending’s share of gross domestic product was 18 percent in March, a fifth of a percentage point off our all-time high, in June 2011.

The costs are rising and are projected to rise more after Obamacare is implemented fully.

Findings from a 2011 report by the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services project health care spending in 2020 at more than $4.6 trillion, making up 19.8 percent of GDP.

Much of that is because of an expected increase in access. The report says expanded Medicaid and private insurance should increase demand for health care, including prescription drugs and physician and clinical services.

By 2014, when much of Obamacare kicks in, the report says, “national health spending is projected to grow 8.3 percent, up from 5.5 percent in 2013.”

So while Obamacare may push health spending’s GDP share toward and perhaps past 20 percent, it’s certainly not the only reason it would be that high.

Finally, after the 2010 Congressional Budget Office estimate, the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit group that studies health care, released a video saying Obamacare would take up 3 percent of total federal health care spending and 2 percent of the total federal budget.

The Kaiser estimate suggests it probably won’t even be a fifth of a fifth.

Verdict: We’re working off fluid estimates, but Summers’ assertions have little basis in fact. There are many larger government programs, and while health care spending probably could comprise a fifth of our economy in the coming years, Obamacare is just a piece of it.

We rate this statement false.

Michael Shepherd — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: mikeshepherdme


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