CBO Director ‘Very Comfortable’ With Health Care Cost Figures: ‘I Don’t Think We Were Gamed’

By Matt Loffman

Apr 8, 2010 12:48pm

ABC News' Rick Klein reports: With his office's work coming under unusual scrutiny in recent weeks, Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf today defended his agency's handling of the health care law, telling reporters that he stands by the cost estimates of the Democratic-authored measures. “I am very comfortable with the numbers we released,” Elmendorf said at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “There are a number of people who expressed concern that we were being gamed. And I worried about that throughout the year.  But I don't think we were gamed — or at least not in the sense that people seemed to be using that word.” The final cost estimate produced by the non-partisan CBO — that the health care measure would cost $940 billion over 10 years, and bring down the deficit over that same time period — helped Democrats make their final case to power the bills to passage last month. But the CBO numbers were harshly critiqued by some prominent Republicans. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, said the CBO numbers were based on “smoke, mirrors and gimmicks” offered by Democrats. Elmendorf said today that it was “well-understood” that some pieces of the Democrats’ legislation “would probably be difficult to sustain over the next decade or two decades.” Those caveats were included in the final CBO analysis, he said. But his office, he said, must develop cost estimates based on what’s presented by lawmakers. “In terms of the number itself, though — as the law is written — we have not changed our modeling in some way that would give us a different answer today,” he said. “Undoubtedly, we will turn out to be wrong in one direction or the other. Our goal is to be in the middle of the distribution of possible outcomes, and I think we accomplished that. But I'm curious, too, to see how it ultimately plays out relative to what we expect.”

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