Michael Burgess: CBO Numbers on Health Care Are Pure Fantasy
CNBC Senior Talent Producer
The momentum is picking up against the health care repeal vote. The Congressional budget office issued a statement saying they estimate the repeal would increase the deficit by $230 billion by 2021.
This statement came to no surprise by those following the debate. Many Democrats have already been saying this. But now that the genie is out of the bottle. I decided to ask Congress Michael Burgess (R-TX) a physician and member of the Health Subcommittee on this thoughts on the upcoming vote.
LL: As a doctor what kind of conversation do you hope this repeal vote will spark?
MB: This reform is absolutely unworkable. When you look at the size and complexity with this legislation, when you look at the timelines and cost, there is almost no way this can succeed.
I don't know if that reflects incompetence, malevolence, I do know this is designed to fail. I very much support the vote to repeal this. For those who say this is symbolic I would say ok, but that direction was given to us November second.
For a year and a half people from all over the country said don't do this. Fix the problems in the present system but do not put the system on its head. That's exactly what we did. As a consequence of that, the vote November second reflected the extreme disgust the country had with congress not listening to the ways of the people. This vote was mandated by the November vote.
Certainly, you have to ask yourself for the 19 people who did not vote for Pelosi as Minority Leader—are they entertaining the thought of voting for the repeal? I don't know. The only bipartisan part of the vote in March was in opposition to this. I expect calls to come into Harry Reid's office fast and furious to bring this up on the floor for a debate and vote. Of course he will resist that but there have been other times in the last three or four years where the Senate has responded to public pressure.
Whether it passes or not its anyone's guess. That's why the public engagement on this is so terribly important.
LL: The CBO came out today issuing a statement saying the repeal would increase the deficit by $230 billion by 2021. How do you respond to that?
MB: The CBO knows their numbers were pure fantasy last March. Don't take my word for it. The chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services came out a month later and said um, minor correction, instead of saving $142 billion over the budgetary window, it costs 318 billion dollars.
That's a $450 billion dollar swing in a months time! Its more than just a booking keeping error. It's more than just a rounding error. There is no question that this law as it exists is in fact a huge cost driver in the deficit for years to come. Even Obama's own debt commission correctly addressed some changes that need to be made in Congress, but they never even addressed this health care law that is looming out there in 2014!
If you are serious about controlling the deficit you have to be serious about looking at the subsidies that are going to exist in the exchanges for families that earn up to $80,000 a year. That is going to be a huge wack on the federal treasury and the debt commission didn't address it. I don't know why. I was not a member of the commission. Maybe they got instructions from the White House you can't touch Obamacare.
But for whatever reason they did not look at the elephant in the room. It's just preposterous. How could we talk about addressing the deficit without talking about this massive entitlement that was just passed a few months before.
LL: Let's turn to tax reform. You previously introduced a flat tax bill (HR 1040), do you think the Flat Tax has a chance during the reform discussions?
MB: The debt commission did talk about changes in the tax code. I don't think anyone would argue that serious work needs to be done on this. You have over a million words in the tax code and there are 780,000 words in the Bible.
It tells you there is a discrepancy there. The tax code is way too complex and its hard to understand. I would do anything to give up that shoe box of receipts. Just tell me what the rate is and I'll be happy to comply whatever the law is. There is so much to say for simplicity. I believe a restructuring this magnitude is going to take the referendum of a Presidential election.
One of the candidates, be it Republican or Democrat will need to embrace fundamental tax reform— be it flat tax, fair tax or something in-between, and make it their own and make it the platform which they run. I would like to see it and welcome it.
As we speak, my office is reaching out to the White House right now to see if there is some common ground here. I have a flat tax bill, you all said there should be restructuring, is there an area where we can talk but realistically it will take the tidal wave of a Presidential Election to get this done.
LL: The President himself said he would like to tackle health reform. Are you confident he will?
MB: Problem is the track record is not there. He doesn't really believe in this. He said he wanted transparency in health care and then he didn't do that. He went behind closed doors and did those secret deals.
To this day I cannot get notes or emails as a result of those secret meetings. I don't want to get political here, but you can't trust a word of what he says.
A Senior Talent Producer at CNBC, and author of "Thriving in the New Economy:Lessons from Today's Top Business Minds."
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