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Romney: Repealing health plan will save billions

By Tom Watkins, CNN
updated 1:15 AM EST, Sun November 13, 2011

(CNN) -- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney targeted the Affordable Care Act during Saturday's Republican candidates' debate in Spartanburg, South Carolina, saying a repeal would save billions of dollars.

The statement: "A lot of programs we like but we simply can't afford. The first one we'll eliminate, however, we're happy to get rid of. That's Obamacare. And that'll save us $95 billion by my fourth year," Romney said.

The facts: Repeal of the Affordable Care Act, referred to by some critics as Obamacare, would indeed cut federal spending by about $95 billion in 2016, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the non-partisan research arm of Congress.

But such a repeal would result in a much smaller reduction of the budget in 2016 if you factor in the fact that the law also cuts spending on Medicare and raises taxes -- changes that would also be nixed by a repeal of the act.

According to the CBO, the net reduction of the deficit would only be about $5 billion.

And by 2018, the law results in annual net reductions in the deficit; its repeal would wind up costing the government, according to the CBO.

The impact of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act would not be solely financial. The funds that Romney would cut are subsidies poor people would use beginning in 2014 to buy health insurance in the private market. A repeal would mean the 20 million to 30 million people the plan seeks to cover will not be covered, said Uwe Reinhardt, a professor of health economics at Princeton University. "They would be left out, unassisted and on their own," he said.

Though some critics of the health plan point to the fact that the uninsured can show up at emergency rooms for care, that is not an acceptable solution, Reinhardt said. "Hospitals are not an infinite pot of money that you can just simply thrust 30 million people on and say, 'Take care of them, but we won't pay,'" he said. "Hospitals have payrolls."

The verdict: True, but incomplete

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