Sessions: Health Law’s Unfunded Obligations More Than Double That Of Social Security
“Part of my responsibility as the Ranking Member is to look at the long-term costs of legislation… I was floored by what we discovered. At a time when we should be trying to shore up Medicare and Social Security, this health law adds an entirely new obligation—one we cannot pay for—and puts the entire financing of the United States government in jeopardy. We don’t have the money. We don’t have another $17 trillion in unfunded liabilities that we can add to our account.”
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, spoke on the Senate floor today to share the Committee’s finding that the president’s health law will grow our nation’s unfunded liabilities by $17 trillion beyond our existing obligations, putting current entitlement programs in much greater jeopardy. The new $17 trillion unfunded obligation is more the twice Social Security’s $7 trillion unfunded obligation, and represents a modest estimate based on the administration’s own optimistic assumptions.
A rush transcript of Sessions’ remarks follows:
“I’m here today to share a new and stunning revelation unearthed by my staff on the Senate Budget Committee. Part of my responsibility as the Ranking Member is to look at the long-term costs of legislation. So we wanted to ascertain the long-term costs of the president’s health bill and I mean the kind of long-term cost analysis that has been going on for a number of years with regard to Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid over a 75-year period. I was floored by what we discovered. But first, let’s put this in a little context.
President Obama told the American people that his health law would cost $900 billion over ten years and that it would not add ‘one dime’ to the debt.
But we have shown the cost for ten years of implementation is actually $2.6 trillion—almost three times as much. In addition, the offsets used to reduce the law’s official cost were enormous and phony, as I have discussed before, and will detail at another time. The more we learn about the bill, the more we discover that it’s even more unaffordable than was suspected.
So, over a period of about three months, our staff worked to estimate the new unfunded liability imposed by the health law. This is not the total cost of the bill, but the unfunded, mandatory coverage obligations incurred by the United States government on behalf of the United States people over a period of time. An unfunded obligation is basically the amount of money we have to spend on a mandatory expense that does not have a funding source—money we don’t have but that we are committed to spend. It is this kind of long-term, unfunded obligation that has placed this nation’s financial situation at such great risk. It is what has called witness after witness before the Budget Committee, where I serve as Ranking Member, to tell us that we are on an unsustainable path. That means money we will either have to print, borrow, or tax to meet the obligations we have incurred as a people as a result of the passage of this bill. For instance, Social Security has an unfunded liability of $7 trillion over the next 75 years. That’s an enormous sum. It’s double the entire amount of the United States budget today.
My staff used the models that are used by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and worked diligently to come up with a figure. That figure—based on the administration’s own optimistic assumptions and claims about the cost of the law—is an incredible $17 trillion. That is more than twice the unfunded liability of Social Security.
When you include the new health law with our existing obligations like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—we now have $99.4 trillion in total unfunded obligations over 75 years.
I want to emphasize: this $17 trillion figure is not an estimate based on what we think will occur if the administration’s claims and promises are false. We use the administration’s own figures. So the unfunded liability is almost certainly not going to be less than $17 trillion but, if any more of the administration’s claims unravel—as so many already have—the cost of the program’s unpaid for obligation will rise radically higher than $17 trillion. For instance, former CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin says millions more may lose their current employer coverage and be placed into the government exchanges than currently projected.
Let me briefly explain some of what now comprises this additional $17 trillion in unfunded obligations.
$12 trillion is for the health care law’s premium subsidy program. You see, the law created new regulations that drive up the price of insurance for millions of Americans. The writers of the law knew it would inflate the cost of insurance premiums, so to cover that cost they had to include new government subsidies so people could pay for their more expensive insurance.
On Medicaid, this new health care law has added another $5 trillion in unfunded liabilities. This is on top of the substantial unfunded obligations that the federal and state governments have already had to take on in order to support Medicaid, and they have vigorously protested to us, warning of these deep, additional expenditure requirements that are falling on the states.
And these figures don’t even account for the dozens of new bureaucracies that will be created to implement the president’s health care law or the expansion of existing bureaucracies. For instance, the IRS has requested 4,000 new agents and $303 million in additional funds to begin implementing the law.
At a time when we should be trying to shore up Medicare and Social Security, this health law adds an entirely new obligation—one we cannot pay for—and puts the entire financing of the United States government in jeopardy. We don’t have the money. We don’t have another $17 trillion in unfunded liabilities that we can add to our account. We have to reduce the ones that we have. This has been obvious for decades. Multiple decades. People have talked about it repeatedly. Instead of doing something about those programs that are headed to bankruptcy, we add—under this president’s determined insistence and under a straight party line vote—one of the largest unfunded mandates in history on top of what we already have. How can we possibly justify this? We cannot justify it. This bill has got to be removed from the books. It would be absolutely irresponsible for this Congress to maintain a law that would run up this kind of debt. Two and half times the unfunded obligations of Social Security.
I will be sending a letter to the Government Accountability Office asking them to construct their independent estimate of the president’s unfunded health law obligations. This is an urgent matter. And I plan to come to the floor in coming days to continue to explain the true fiscal facts about this legislation.
This bill is unpopular, unaffordable and unconstitutional. It must be repealed.”
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