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Yarmuth Opening Statement at Third CBO Oversight Hearing

Feb 27, 2018

Washington, D.C. – Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee, gave the following opening statement at today’s hearing on CBO Oversight: The Role of Behavioral Modeling in Scoring and Baseline Construction. Remarks as prepared are below:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would also like to join you in welcoming our three CBO witnesses today: Director Keith Hall; Deputy Assistant Director for Health, Retirement, and Long-Term Analysis Jessica Banthin; and Associate Director for Economic Analysis, Jeffrey Kling.

We appreciate you coming before the committee to testify and answer questions about how CBO incorporates behavioral responses into its analyses. I anticipate that a lot of today’s discussion will center on health care, and I’m glad the committee is looking into it.

I cannot blame our new Chairman for the timing of this hearing, but I do think it’s important to point out that it would have made more sense to hold this hearing before voting on the Majority’s bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act and gut Medicaid. Or before voting on their tax bill which repealed a key component of the ACA. Or before voting on a budget resolution that cuts $1 trillion from Medicaid and ends the Medicare guarantee.  

Nevertheless I am a pleased you are here, Dr. Hall, Dr. Banthin, and Dr. Kling. 

A year ago, the President said, “Nobody knew health care could be so complicated." I am quite certain all three of you have known just how complicated it is.

That is why Congress relies on your objective, non-partisan expertise to research, model, and estimate the effects of large-scale changes to our nation’s health care system. When you consider that our system represents fully one sixth of the US economy, there is absolutely no way we can responsibly legislate on behalf of the American people without knowing the entire impact of our health care proposals.  During the debate on the Affordable Care Act, I called health care policy a giant Rubik’s cube. You may think you are changing one small part on one side, but that change unexpectedly impacts a different side or many different sides. Health care has a lot more sides than a Rubik’s cube, which is why we have to rely on impartial analysis and input from unbiased experts, or we will find ourselves neck deep in unintended consequences. When it comes to access to health care, these unintended consequences can translate into severe consequences for American families.

For example, after rigorous modeling CBO ultimately estimated the House-passed bill to repeal the ACA would reduce the number of people with health insurance by 23 million in 2026.  Now, it is still unclear to me if that was the goal of my Republican colleagues or an unintended consequence, but either way it’s critical information for us to have – and we must have it before we vote.   

That said, Director Hall, I am interested in hearing more about this estimate, as well as about how CBO is updating the baseline to reflect actions taken by Republicans in Congress and the Administration to deter ACA enrollment, destabilize the insurance markets, and prevent the law from being implemented as designed. 

I am also interested in hearing about how CBO is re-estimating proposals in the President's 2019 budget request. My Democratic colleagues and I have grave concerns about many of his policies including massive cuts to health care, anti-poverty programs, and investments in economic growth.

Again, I thank our witnesses for coming and I look forward to their testimony.