CBO Jumps to 20-Year Budget Window for Health Care

There is an interesting article ($) in CQ this morning about a possible change in forecasting techniques used by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND), Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, announced on Monday that CBO would likely provide cost estimates for the forthcoming Senate health care reform bill beyond the standard 10-year budget window - extending that window to 20 years.

This is pretty unusual, at least in my almost 10 years of working in federal policy. The CQ article provides some specifics of how this might work according to Democratic aides:

Normally CBO scores how much a bill adds to or decreases the deficit each year during the first 10 years of its enactment, but this would be difficult to do with any precision in a second decade. What CBO will likely do, a Democratic aide said, is provide an estimate — as a percentage of GDP — for the effect on the deficit over the whole second 10-year period.

This would give Congress an idea of the measure’s effect on the deficit beyond the normal 10-year window without asking for specific year-by-year numbers. CBO could also describe what elements of the bill led it to this estimate.

I'm not sure how much this new estimate will really add to the health care debate given the great difficulties is projecting the impact of any kind of legislation over even 10 years, much less 20. As the CQ article alludes to, if anything, it will impact the politics of the debate much more so than the policy.

CQ ($): Budget Office Will Score Senate Finance’s Health Care Bill Over 20 Years

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