Republicans will regret ignoring the Congressional Budget Office

Rather unusually, Republicans in the House of Representatives are intent on moving their plan to repeal and replace Obamacare through committees before they even have estimates of how much the plan will cost, how many people it will cover, or what it will do to insurance premiums.

The Congressional Budget Office will likely come out with those estimates next week. If Republicans succeed in rushing the “markups” of the Obamacare bills, they will already have been voted out of committee and sent to the House floor by then.

Why the rush? Republicans are afraid the CBO report is going to say the plan will cause a ton of people to lose health insurance, so they’re preparing to disregard it.

“If you’re looking to the CBO for accuracy, you’re looking in the wrong place,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said at Wednesday’s press briefing.

Republicans are within their power to disregard the CBO’s report if they wish.

But there are a couple of reasons they will probably regret it if they do.

The first is accuracy: Like any forecast, the CBO’s forecast almost certainly won’t predict the future exactly. But the CBO did better than most other forecasters at estimating the effects of the Affordable Care Act on coverage and prices.

The CBO has deep expertise and isn’t biased in the way forecasters with a stake in the outcome of the legislative fight often are. Now, the CBO even has a Republican director who was appointed by Republicans, which would seem to undermine claims of anti-Republican bias.

The CBO’s model will almost surely more accurate than President Donald Trump’s, which seems to consist entirely of guessing.

But even if the CBO is way wrong, that won’t save Republicans from trouble for ignoring it.

People are always upset about healthcare. Healthcare costs rise every year, usually faster than the overall rate of inflation. When that happens, people tend to blame whoever last made a big change to health care policy. If this law passes, that will be Trump, originator of Trumpcare.

Of course, to the extent the plan causes millions to lose health insurance, that means even more people who will be very angry and looking for someone to blame.

When that dissatisfaction arises, Republicans won’t be able to say they weren’t warned — because even if CBO’s forecasts fail to accurately describe the terms of the misery, the misery will still be there.

This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.

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