Remember That Time Heidi Heitkamp Said Obamacare Was A "Budget Saver"


“If you look at the entire bill, and we can pull out CBO numbers, it actually is a budget saver,” Senator Heidi Heitkamp told a voter during her 2012 campaign after she was asked about the budget impact of Obamacare. “It actually reduces the deficit.”

Like many Democrat claims about Obamacare, this one caused much eye rolling among critics of the law, and it turns out that they were, once again, absolutely correct.

Sarah Kliff reported for the Washington Post last week that the new enrollees in Obamacare were going to have impacts on government health care spending that weren’t accounted for when Obamacare’s costs were tabulated:

As the health-care law expands Medicaid to cover millions more Americans, a new Harvard University study finds that enrollment in [the] public program significantly increases enrollees’ use of emergency departments.

The research, published Thursday in the journal Science, showed a 40 percent increase in emergency department visits among those low-income adults in Oregon who gained Medicaid coverage in 2008 through a state lottery. This runs counter to some health-care law supporters’ hope that Medicaid coverage would decrease this type of costly medical care, by making it easier for low income adults to see primary care providers.

So how much additional cost does these Medicaid enrollees represent? The Harvard study pins it at $120 per year per additional person covered. Reports are that some 6 million people have signed up for Medicaid under Obamacare, which means the additional cost is a whopping $720 million.

Which prompts at least one of Obamacare’s designers, MIT’s Jonathan Gruber who helped design the national law and the similar state-level version in Massachusetts, to admit that this stuff about Obamacare reducing costs was baloney all along. From the article:

“I would view it as part of a broader set of evidence that covering people with health insurance doesn’t save money,” says Jonathan Gruber, a health economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who has also studied Oregon’s Medicaid expansion but is not affiliated with this study. “That was sometimes a misleading motivator for the Affordable Care Act. The law isn’t designed to save money. It’s designed to improve health, and that’s going to cost money.”

Meanwhile, in North Dakota, Obamacare has cost over 35,000 people their health insurance while less than 3,000 have enrolled for insurance through the expanded Medicaid program or the health insurance exchange.