I noted yesterday that George Miller, chairman of the House Education and Labor committee, was claiming that the CBO scored his bill as revenue-neutral over ten years, when in truth the CBO scored it as adding $239 billion to the deficit over ten years.
Today, Politico has an explanation for Miller’s story, sort of. Apparently $245 billion of the bill’s spending is for Medicare payments to doctors, and was put there to gain the support of the AMA. The Democrats argue that that part of the bill doesn’t count. Voila, $6 billion surplus.
In my own budget, the only way to make spending not count is not to spend the money. I wish I were as clever as the Democrats.
UPDATE: In the original post, I said the Democrats were planning to use accounting gimmicks to hide the $245 billion. That’s what I understood the Politico article to be saying with its reference to “new accounting rules,” but now it looks like I misunderstood. The chicanery the Democrats are attempting is political, not accounting. (I’ve corrected the post accordingly, but the mistake lingers on in the permalink.)
This statement from the Energy and Commerce committee explains the Democratic argument a little bit better:
The bill’s long-term reform of Medicare’s physician fee schedule to eliminate the potential 21 percent cut in fees, and put payments on a sustainable basis for the future, will cost about $245 billion. Those costs, however, are not included in the net calculations above, as they will be absorbed under the upcoming statutory “pay go” legislation that is pending in the House.
So the $245 billion doesn’t count because it also appears in some other bill that’s under consideration. Well, at least I understand what they’re saying now.
The Democrats are trying to have it both ways. If they don’t want to count the $245 billion, they can simply take it out of the bill. Leave it in the other bill and pass that one. (Or better yet, don’t.) But that’s exactly what they cannot do. The $245 billion fee adjustment was the AMA’s price for supporting the bill. If they take it out, they risk losing the AMA’s support. It’s a package deal.
The CBO doesn’t score a bill based on what else might be done in other political realities. If it’s in the bill, it counts. It’s ridiculous to pretend otherwise.
UPDATE: This AP article lays things out pretty well.