Estimated 23 mln would lose health insurance under Republican bill: CBO

The health care bill Republicans recently pushed through the House would leave 23 million more Americans without insurance and confront others who have costly medical conditions with coverage that could prove unaffordable, Congress' official budget analysts said Wednesday.

People at risk are those who have to turn to the individual market for health coverage and who have serious medical conditions, including those with pre-existing conditions and those with newly diagnosed conditions or injuries.

By contrast, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the new estimate shows “TrumpCare will kick millions of Americans off their insurance coverage and force consumers to pay more for less.”. In states that pursue AHCA waivers, CBO says average premiums would fall but "less healthy people would face extremely high premiums" because many sick people would opt for community-rated plans.

The GOP rushed to pass their health care bill in the House before it could even get a grade from the Congressional Budget Office.

The bill furthermore fails to provide adequate funding for the high-risk pools and risk-sharing arrangements included within it to provide effective insurance products for those with pre-existing conditions. But a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services dispels this myth.

"While I am in favor of repealing Obamacare, I am opposed to the American Health Care Act in its current form", Republican Senator Dean Heller said in a statement.

Many congressional Republicans took a sharply different tack, emphasizing some of the report's more positive findings.

After the release of the score, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) responded saying,"This CBO report again confirms that the American Health Care Act achieves our mission: lowering premiums and lowering the deficit".

The new estimate, which reflects a series of last-minute revisions Republicans made to win over several conservative lawmakers and a handful of moderates, calculates that the American Health Care Act would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion between 2017 and 2026. The May 24 estimate of the version of the AHCA actually passed by the House contains by far the least deficit reduction (just $119 billion over ten years) but still predicts nearly the same number of insurance losses.

Trump and Republicans celebrated House passage of the bill earlier this month in a Rose Garden ceremony, even as GOP senators signaled their opposition and signaled that the bill had little chance of becoming law.

The CBO scored the updated version of the bill with the amendment and concluded states choosing to repeal those mandates would affect one-sixth of the USA population and would cause premiums for sick people in waiver states to skyrocket. The agency estimated that about one-sixth of the US population - more than 50 million people - live in states that would make substantial changes under the waivers. Comprehensive reproductive healthcare would still move out of reach, especially for millions of low-income people, because of this bill's attacks on Medicaid, Planned Parenthood and abortion coverage.

"A "health care" plan does not throw 23 million people off of health care".

Fourth, the CBO anticipates that Utah and other states will pursue waivers to let insurers cut major benefits like mental health, maternity care, and basic medications from their plans, leading to "Swiss cheese" plans underlined with fine print that restrict more benefits than they actually pay for.

"Over time, it would become more hard for less healthy people (including people with preexisting medical conditions) in those states to purchase insurance because their premiums would continue to increase rapidly", the CBO wrote. Those places would see a 20 percent drop in premiums by 2026 compared to current law, "primarily because, on average, insurance policies would provide fewer benefits".

Without naming the Trump administration, the report said factors encouraging insurers to flee some markets include lack of profits and "substantial uncertainty" about federal actions. The CBO projects Medicaid rolls will shrink by 14 million people over the next decade as Obamacare's Medicaid expansion is rolled back.

"It's a technical, procedural step", said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Senate GOP leaders spent the hours before the CBO report came out downplaying the impact it would have on their ongoing efforts to craft their version of legislation repealing and replacing Obamacare.

  • Zachary Reyes