For a short while, there was a very loud budget buzz about the Supreme Court case on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, sometimes known as “Obamacare,” which like “Bush Tax Cuts” is too close to a partisan epithet for this space). The conventional wisdom was that the Court would strike down the so-called “individual mandate” (the requirement that individuals either purchase health insurance or pay a penalty) as unconstitutional. It turns out that the Congressional Budget Office had estimated that striking the mandate would save the federal government money (see here). Health insurance would be more expensive, and the government would not collect penalties from those who refused to purchase insurance, both of which would increase the deficit. But on the other hand, fewer people would receive coverage under Medicaid, fewer would use federal subsidies to buy insurance, and there would be less tax-deductible spending on insurance. The budget savings would be greater than the costs on net. So naturally, Washington was atwitter over how to spend the windfall from the expected Supreme Court ruling; eliminating the automatic sequester of defense spending was the leading candidate.
But we have been spared that decision. Read More