White House launches preemptive strike on CBO, anticipating report on health care bill

Christopher Wilson
·Senior Writer
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, left, and Keith Hall, director of the Congressional Budget Office. (Photos: Zach Gibson/Getty Images-Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, left, and Keith Hall, director of the Congressional Budget Office. (Photos: Zach Gibson/Getty Images-Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Awaiting a new Congressional Budget Office score on the latest rewrite of the Republican health care bill expected next week, the White House has launched an attack on the nonpartisan group.

In a video published to its social media accounts, the White House claims that the CBO uses faulty numbers. It disputed projections that 22 million more Americans would be without health insurance by 2026, compared with keeping Obamacare. The video came in conjunction with a press release citing critiques of the CBO from the Council of Economic Advisers, a group of political appointees.

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The White House deleted and then reposted the video after initially misspelling the word “inaccurately” in its story about the importance of accuracy. The video was then retweeted on the @POTUS account.

The original video posted by the White House.
The original video posted by the White House.

As the White House video states, CBO projections for coverage under Obamacare were wrong, in part because the agency didn’t foresee a Supreme Court ruling allowing states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion in the bill. The agency also forecast that more employers would drop their own health insurance plans than actually did. After the Supreme Court ruling, which led to 19 states dropping the Medicaid expansion, the office’s revised prediction projected that 89 percent of Americans below age 65 would have insurance in 2016. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number was 89.7 percent.

Republicans have spent the past few months attempting to discredit the CBO for a series of negative reports analyzing their proposed Obamacare replacements. Some, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., have said that the millions of people expected to lose coverage would merely be exercising their freedom to go without health insurance.

The CBO was created in 1974 as a nonpartisan analyst of proposed legislation, providing independent reports on the potential economic impact of new bills. The current CBO director is Keith Hall, who was appointed in 2015 by Republican leadership in Congress. Hall served on President George W. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers. His selection rankled some Democrats who were upset by a 2013 op-ed in which he criticized Obamacare and proposals to raise the minimum wage.

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One of the leading Republicans in selecting Hall was Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who was a congressman and chair of the House Budget Committee at the time.

“Keith Hall will bring an impressive level of economic expertise and experience to the Congressional Budget Office,” said Price in a February 2015 statement. “Throughout his career, he has served in both the public and private sector, under presidents of both parties, and in roles that make him well-suited to lead the CBO. In particular, during his time at the U.S. International Trade Commission, Dr. Hall has worked on providing Congress with non-partisan economic analyses — a role similar to the responsibilities he will now assume as CBO director. His vast understanding of economic and labor market policy will be invaluable to the work of CBO and the important role it will continue to play as Congress seeks to enact policies that support a healthy and growing economy.”

Price has been one of the most outspoken critics of the organization in his new Cabinet post, calling the CBO’s Obamacare replacement projections “not accurate” and contending that the White House [disagreed] strenuously” with its findings.

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