Is It Really Double Counting?

Last week, we picked up on a letter that was sent to Congress by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that said CBO had double counted the savings that would result from the cuts to Medicare included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). Read post.

Essentially, the CBO said that it had credited the savings to the Health Insurance Trust Fund (HI) extending the amount of benefits that can be paid out. While at the same time, the cuts were also being used to offset the additional costs of providing subsidies to low income uninsureds to all them to buy coverage.

In the words of the CBO:

“To describe the full amount of HI trust fund savings as both improving the government’s ability to pay future Medicare benefits and financing new spending outside of Medicare would essentially double-count a large share of those savings and thus overstate the improvement in the government’s fiscal position.”

The New York Times tackled this issue yesterday in an article by Robert Pear that attempts to explain how technically it might be possible for the Senate bill to be able to reduce the deficit by $132 billion in the next 10 years while adding nine years to the life of Medicare’s hospital trust fund.

No disrespect to Mr. Pear, but even after reading his explanation of how this may not be double counting, I have to agree with Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, when he summarized the situation by saying. “You can’t sell the same pony twice.”

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