In politics as in roulette, it is not advisable to place all your bets on one number. But that is what Republicans have done in their unwavering opposition to what they derisively call Obamacare — and the numbers continue to be unlucky for them.
The 7.5 million sign-ups for the Affordable Care Act exceeded the program’s initial enrollment goal, contrary to the dire predictions of critics. Now the Congressional Budget Office estimates that government subsidies for health-insurance premiums will cost $104 billion less than the nonpartisan CBO expected over the next decade.
CBO projects that the national average cost of individual policies for the second lowest-cost “silver” plan will be about $3,800 in 2014, $3,900 in $2015, and $4,400 in 2016 — 15 percent below the CBO’s original estimate. Thereafter, premiums will rise to about $6,900 in 2024.
This is welcome news, hailed as such by the White House. But cheaper doesn’t mean cheap; the overall cost of the coverage provisions of the Affordable Care Act is $1.38 trillion between 2015 and 2024. That remains a big number.
So while the doomsday predictions of the law’s critics have been blunted, the new projections don’t absolutely refute Republicans’ objections about total cost. Until we know the exact number and profile of the people who have signed up and enough time has passed to judge trends, the CBO estimates are a good take on what is going on, but not the final judgment. The best estimates are still just estimates.
Still, those who support the Affordable Care Act have fresh reason to be encouraged. Those who aren’t supporters may want to look again at the numbers and rethink their decision to bet on failure. It seems politically smarter to come up with a plan to improve the legislation, not just junk it.