I sent the following email to flag@whitehouse.gov this morning.

From: Keith Hennessey
Tuesday, August 11, 2009 7:47 AM
surveil@fbi.gov; bigbro@dhs.gov; patriot.act@nsa.gov; anon6427@dni.gov

Subject: Fishy statements about health care reform

The Honorable Linda Douglass
Communications Director
Health Reform Office
The White House

Dear Ms. Douglass:

I write in response to the request posted on the White house blog, “Facts are stubborn things.”

If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov .

I call to your attention several fishy statements about health care reform legislation made by a gentleman named Dr. Douglas Elmendorf. He claims to be Director of the “Congressional Budget Office” and has posted frequently about health care reform on his website, cbo.gov. This information takes the form of personal posts on his Director’s Blog, as well as in-depth reports that have the veneer of competent, thorough, impartial professional analysis. The IP address of his site is, and his organization has named their hideout the “Ford House Office Building.”

Elmendorf appears to have several hundred followers in his organization, which has extraordinary influence over many in Congress. I understand that some right-wing Members of Congress support and even vote for his annual funding source.

CBO and Elmendorf make extraordinary claims about bills moving through Congress that attempt to implement the President’s plans for health care reform. I bring them to your attention so that you can refute them. I have included these allegations below. Specifically, Elmendorf and his rabble-rousers make the following claims:

  • The House bill would increase the budget deficit by $239 B over the next ten years. This conflicts with the President’s goal of not increasing short-term deficits.
  • Ten years from now the House bill would add $65 B to the budget deficit. This conflicts with the President’s insistence that legislation must not increase the deficit in that year.
  • The House bill would increase long-term budget deficits by ever-increasing amounts, making our long-term debt problem worse than under current law. This of course conflicts with the President’s statements that “health care reform is entitlement reform,” and that health care reform is essential to addressing America’s long-term budget problems.
  • Rather than “bending the cost curve down” as the President has laudably insisted, Dr. Elmendorf said the Senate HELP Committee bill would “raise the cost curve.”
  • Under the House bill, in the year 2015 about 8 million uninsured Americans would remain uninsured and pay higher taxes. This would violate the President’s pledge not to raise taxes on anyone earning less than $250,000 per year.
  • Under the House bill, about 3 million people who now have employer-sponsored health insurance would lose that coverage because their employer drops it, violating the President’s bold promise that no one will lose the health plan they have now.
  • The President’s Medicare Commission proposal would probably save only $2 billion over ten years, and there is a high probability it would save no taxpayer money. In the long run the saving would be “modest.”

If this suspect “Congressional Budget Office” is publishing disinformation about either health care reform, I hope you can correct it. A lot of important people seem to listen to this Elmendorf guy. Left unrefuted, these claims suggest that the bills being developed in the House and Senate would harm the U.S. economy and millions of Americans in violation of the President’s stated goals.


Keith Hennessey

Seemingly fishy statements about health care reform
made by Dr. Douglas Elmendorf and his “Congressional Budget Office”

Effect on short-term budget deficits

“According to CBO’s and JCT’s assessment, enacting H.R. 3200 would result in a net increase in the federal budget deficit of $239 billion over the 2010-2019 period. That estimate reflects a projected 10-year cost of the bill’s insurance coverage provisions of $1,042 billion, partly offset by net spending changes that CBO estimates would save $219 billion over the same period, and by revenue provisions that JCT estimates would increase federal revenues by about $583 billion over those 10 years.” Elmendorf blog post

“By the end of the 10-year period, in 2019, the coverage provisions would add $202 billion to the federal deficit, CBO and JCT estimate. That increase would be partially offset by net cost savings of $50 billion and additional revenues of $86 billion, resulting in a net increase in the deficit of an estimated $65 billion.” Elmendorf blog post

Effects on long-term budget deficits

“In sum, relative to current law, the proposal would probably generate substantial increases in federal budget deficits during the decade beyond the current 10-year budget window.” Elmendorf letter to Reps. Camp, Barton, Kline, and Ryan

“The net cost of the coverage provisions would be growing at a rate of more than 8 percent per year in nominal terms between 2017 and 2019; we would anticipate a similar trend in the subsequent decade. … Revenue from the surcharge on high-income individuals would be growing at about 5 percent per year in nominal terms between 2017 and 2019; that component would continue to grow at a slower rate than the cost of the coverage expansion in the following decade.” Elmendorf letter to Reps. Camp, Barton, Kline, and Ryan

Eight million uninsured paying higher taxes

See table “Preliminary Analysis of the Insurance Coverage Specifications Provided by the House Tri-Committee Group,” of this CBO cost estimate. 16m people would be uninsured post-policy, of whom about half would be unauthorized immigrants.

Three million people losing the health plan they have now because of the bill

“In addition, CBO and the JCT staff estimate that nearly 6 million other people who would be covered by an employment-based plan under current law would not have such coverage under the proposal. That figure includes part-time employees, who could receive subsidies via an exchange even though they have an employer’s offer of coverage, and about 3 million people who would not have an employer’s offer of coverage under the proposal. Firms that would choose not to offer coverage as a result of the proposal would tend to be smaller employers and those that predominantly employ lower-wage workers … people who would be eligible for subsidies through the exchanges … although some workers who were not eligible for subsidies through the exchanges also would not have coverage available through their employers. Whether those changes in coverage would represent the dropping of existing coverage or a lack of offers of new coverage is difficult to determine.” Elmendorf letter to Chairman Rangel (July 14, 2009)

The President’s “IMAC” Medicare Commission proposal

“CBO estimates that enacting the proposal, as drafted, would yield savings of $2 billion over the 2010-2019 period (with all of the savings realized in fiscal years 2016 through 2019) if the proposal was added to H.R. 3200, the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, as introduced in the House of Representatives.” Elmendorf letter to House Majority Leader Hoyer (July 25, 2009)

“This estimate represents the expected value of the 10-year savings from the proposal … In CBO’s judgment, the probability is high that no savings would be realized, for reasons discussed below, but there is also a chance that substantial savings might be realized.” Elmendorf letter to House Majority Leader Hoyer (July 25, 2009)

“Looking beyond the 10-year budget window, CBO expects that this proposal would generate larger but still modest savings on the same probabilistic basis.” Elmendorf letter to House Majority Leader Hoyer (July 25, 2009)

“The proposed legislation states that IMAC’s recommendations cannot generate increased Medicare expenditures, but it does not explicitly direct the council to reduce such expenditures nor does it establish any target for such reductions.” Elmendorf letter to House Majority Leader Hoyer (July 25, 2009)