The SBCA recently introduced a new feature, "On Balance: Perspectives from the Field." Short informative, practical, and timely articles relevant to BCA, written by prominent experts in the field, will be distributed regularly via email and on our website
What’s the Score? The Congressional Budget Office and its Role in the Policy Process
by Stuart Guterman
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) plays an important role in the federal legislative process. CBO’s score on a given bill—that is, its estimate of how it would affect the federal budget deficit—can determine whether Congress decides to go forward with the bill, modify it to get a more favorable estimate, or simply drop it. Given their importance, debates over CBO’s scores and the methods they use to produce them can be as controversial as the bills that are being considered. While this controversy can be politically motivated (with advocates on either side of an issue arguing for a score that is more favorable to their position), it also stems from limited understanding of CBO’s intended role in the process—and reflects the difficulty of conducting analyses of benefits and costs in the context of policy decisions.
Stuart Guterman, currently an independent consultant, has spent more than 30 years as a health policy researcher and policymaker. His roles include deputy director of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, director of the Office of Research, Development, and Information at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and Vice President at the Commonwealth Fund. He also has spent time at the Health Care Financing Administration, the Prospective Payment Assessment Commission, the Urban Institute, and the Congressional Budget Office.
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