By Tracy Dingmann
Most people these days read more than just their daily local newspaper to get a full perspective on the news.
But if there are still people out there who rely solely on the Albuquerque Journal to get their news and opinion, they’ll be left today with a one-dimensional take on the cost of health care reform.
In the May 14 editorial, “Surprise! Health Law Costs Above $1 Trillion,” the Journal editorializes about the high cost of health care reform as initially reported earlier this week by the Congressional Budget Office.
But the editorial ignores a key fact about the $1 trillion estimate – that it doesn’t just refer to new funding, but rather includes about $86 billion in funding for programs that already exist or were authorized previously.
This fact has been pointed out on a number of sites, including everything from the official CBO site, which explains it in sober terms, to the Media Matters media criticism site, which explains it in somewhat less sober language.
Here’s another big problem with the $1 trillion estimate – it also refers to about $10 billion in discretionary spending that hasn’t even been approved by Congress – and may never be approved. And if it is approved, Congress will have to offset the increase but cutting something else. But the $10 billion increase is being reported by some media outlets as if its already been done.
The CBO figures sparked a debate today (May 14) between well-known columnists Megan McArdle, a columnist for The Atlantic Monthly who expressed dismay at the apparently added $115 billion (read “The Health Care Reform Already Costs More Than We Thought It Would,”) and Ezra Klein of the Washington Post, who attempted to provide clarity about what that $115 billion actually refers to (read “Discretionary Spending Is Not The Same As New Spending”).
In fact, Klein’s post noting problems with the $115 billion estimate caused McArdle to write a second post a few hours later to address Klein’s critique, which she conceded that several others readers had also noted.
So that shocking $1 trillion price tag for health care reform that’s being bandied about for shock value is really not as cut and dried as the Journal would have you believe.
But the average person who just reads the daily paper wouldn’t know it unless he or she does some poking around online to supplement their diet of news.
Have I mentioned that every day I thank God for the intertubes?