By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar ASSOCIATED PRESS
President Obama’s new health care law could potentially add at least $115 billion more to government health care spending over the next 10 years, congressional budget analysts said Tuesday.
If Congress approves all the additional spending called for in the legislation, it would push the 10-year cost of the overhaul above $1 trillion – an unofficial ceiling the Obama administration set early on in its push for the law.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the nonpartisan scorekeeper on Capitol Hill on budget matters, said the added spending includes $10 billion to $20 billion in administrative costs to federal agencies carrying out the law, as well as $34 billion for community health centers and $39 billion for Indian health care.
The costs were not reflected in earlier estimates by the budget office, although Republican lawmakers strenuously argued that they should have been. Part of the reason is technical: The additional spending is not mandatory, leaving Congress with discretion to provide the funds in follow-on legislation – or not.
“Congress does not always act on authorizations that are put into legislation by drafters,” explained Kenneth Baer, a spokesman for the White House budget agency. “Authorizations for discretionary spending are not expenditures.”
Congressional estimators also said they simply had not had enough time to run the numbers. Costs could go higher, because the legislation authorizes several programs without setting specific funding levels.
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