Repealing healthcare law would cost $210 bln: CBO

WASHINGTON Fri Feb 18, 2011 5:48pm EST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Repealing the U.S. healthcare law enacted last year would add $210 billion to the nation's deficit over the next decade, congressional auditors said on Friday.

The Congressional Budget Office said enactment of a House of Representatives measure last month to scrap the healthcare overhaul would eliminate a number of provisions aimed at reducing federal healthcare costs as well as strip out new revenue-creating taxes and fees.

Republicans, who now control the House, campaigned on repealing the law, one of Democratic President Barack Obama's main legislative victories. Despite the vote in the House, the repeal was largely symbolic as neither the Democratic-led Senate nor Obama support it.

The CBO, along with the Joint Committee on Taxation, earlier estimated the law would save the federal government $124 billion between 2010, when the law was passed, and 2019. Its $210 billion cost increase estimate on Friday covers a slightly different period -- 2012 to 2021.

The agency, which analyzes the costs of various legislation for U.S. lawmakers, said the main difference in the two estimates was mainly because they cover different 10-year periods.

But looking at just the eight years in common between both estimates, implementing the law would save the government $132 billion, while repealing it would boost deficits by $119 billion, it said.

The CBO's analysis comes as U.S. House lawmakers passed an amendment to a spending bill on Friday that would block funds needed to implement the 2010 law, one of Obama's top domestic priorities.

Passed last March, the measure aims to help roughly 30 million Americans gain access to health insurance while enacting numerous other consumer protections.

While expanding coverage was estimated to increase the deficit, such costs were offset by provisions that curb federal spending on items such as private Medicare plans, the CBO said. Additional fees and taxes such as those imposed on health insurers and drugmakers also helped offset the law's costs, it said.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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