Study Reviews CBO’s Uneven History on Health Care Budget Estimates

Today National Taxpayers Union (NTU) released an Issue Brief, “Congressional Budget Office Estimates of Major Health Care Reforms” that focuses on the immense amount of influence that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) exerts on the legislative process. As the Issue Brief explains in detail, CBO’s track record of providing reliable estimates has been uneven in several issue areas directly impacting the lives of everyday taxpayers.

“Obamacare repeal is only the latest budgetary issue in which CBO is playing a pivotal oversight role, but who's watching the watchdog? Like any agency with such outsized influence, CBO's work should be scrutinized and, where appropriate, constructively criticized,” said NTU’s President, Pete Sepp. “This paper is the first of many that will examine how the quality of budget scorekeeping can improve across the board, on matters as diverse as health care, student loans, air traffic control, or farm aid. Our goal is to provide thoughtful analysis that elevates, rather than undermines, the institutions informing our national discussion.”

The brief examines how the power of CBO impacts legislation, sometimes more than Congress itself. With the influence of CBO being so strong, the accountability and integrity of its methodology and estimations is vitally important.

NTU Foundation’s Director of Research, Demian Brady commented, “CBO's budget and enrollment estimates will be at the center of the current fiscal and policy debate on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. As the estimates are being discussed in Congress and in the media, lawmakers – and taxpayers – are well advised to consider CBO’s track record of proving estimates that turned to be built on faulty assumptions regarding enrollment and the impact of the "tax penalty" and the ultimate liability to taxpayers.”

In the coming weeks and months, National Taxpayers Union Foundation will continue to analyze the patterns of CBO and highlight areas where there can be improvement and clarity with the release of research briefs. We will send out upcoming briefs, but they will also be available for review on our website.