Echoing Boehner, WSJ editorial falsely claimed public plan would cost $1 trillion

››› ››› MORGAN WEILAND

A Wall Street Journal editorial echoed House Minority Leader John Boehner's (R-OH) false claim that the public insurance option would cost a trillion dollars. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office found that the public option as outlined by the Senate health committee's bill "did not have a substantial effect on the cost ... projections" for health care reform.

A July 9 Wall Street Journal editorial echoed House Minority Leader John Boehner's (R-OH) false claim that the public insurance option progressives support including in health reform legislation would cost a trillion dollars, characterizing it as a "trillion-dollar entitlement." In fact, neither the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) June 15 preliminary score nor its July 2 score of the Senate health committee's bill -- the only health reform bill currently under consideration including the proposal that CBO has scored -- found that the public plan would cost a trillion dollars. Indeed, the former score did not take a public plan into account, and in addressing the new score that did assess the proposal, CBO director Douglas W. Elmendorf stated that the public option "did not have a substantial effect on the cost ... projection."

As Media Matters for America noted, during the June 16 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer did not challenge Boehner's false claim that the "Congressional Budget Office came out with a score on Senator [Ted] Kennedy's [D-MA] bill, just part of ... his bill that says that the public option would cost over a trillion dollars." In fact, Boehner distorted CBO's June 15 preliminary analysis of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee's draft health care reform bill, which found that the portions of the bill scored would cost a total of $1 trillion over 10 years but explicitly did not assess the impact of a public option.

Moreover, CBO's July 2 score of an updated version of the HELP committee's bill including a public plan option found that the bill would cost a total of approximately $611 billion over 10 years -- nearly $400 billion less than the prior estimate. In a July 2 letter to Kennedy about the new score, Elmendorf wrote that the public option "did not have a substantial effect on the cost or enrollment projections, largely because the public plan would pay providers of health care at rates comparable to privately negotiated rates -- and thus was not projected to have premiums lower than those charged by private insurance plans in the exchanges" (emphasis added).

Media Matters repeatedly noted that following the release of the June 15 CBO score, numerous media figures misrepresented the scope of CBO's projection, falsely suggesting that CBO had scored the entire HELP bill. In fact, Elmendorf stated in a letter accompanying the CBO report: "It is important to note, however, that those figures do not represent a formal or complete cost estimate for the draft legislation" [emphasis in original]. In particular, Elmendorf wrote: "The draft legislation ... indicates that the committee is considering whether to incorporate other features, including a 'public health insurance option' and requirements for 'shared responsibility' by employers. Depending on their details, such provisions could ... have substantial effects on our analysis."

Additionally, Media Matters has extensively documented that numerous media outlets have largely ignored, and in at least one instance distorted, the new CBO score.

From the Journal's July 9 editorial:

On Monday, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel told the Journal's Laura Meckler that the Administration would accept a health bill without a public option, as long as there is "a mechanism to keep the private insurers honest . . . The goal is non-negotiable; the path is." Progressives went bonkers, so on Tuesday Mr. Obama took a break from his Moscow trip to come out strongly in favor (again) of the new trillion-dollar entitlement. Meanwhile, New York's Chuck Schumer has been loudly suggesting that compromise is unnecessary given 60 Senate Democrats -- even as the likes of Ben Nelson, Evan Bayh, Joe Lieberman and Mary Landrieu back away.

Posted In
Health Care, Health Care Reform
Network/Outlet
Wall Street Journal
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