WASHINGTON — With the first version of the American Health Care Act, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found it would leave 14 million more people without any health insurance in the next year while federal deficits would be reduced over the next decade by $337 billion.
By 2020, the number of uninsured would be expected to rise to 21 million people, and continue climbing to 24 million uninsured in 2026, the CBO found in March.
That version of the bill never saw a floor vote as Republican leaders saw the votes weren’t there for passage. After some revisions — but not waiting to receive the CBO score on the tweaked legislation — the bill squeaked by the House and headed to the upper chamber.
But the Senate planned no action until the CBO score was delivered.
That was released today. It found that the federal deficit would be reduced by $119 billion over the next decade under the bill, with 14 million more people uninsured over the next year, 19 million in 2020 and 23 million in 2026.
“In comparison with the estimates for the previous version of the act, under the House-passed act, the number of people with health insurance would, by CBO and [Joint Committee on Taxation]’s estimates, be slightly higher and average premiums for insurance purchased individually—that is, nongroup insurance—would be lower, in part because the insurance, on average, would pay for a smaller proportion of health care costs,” said the CBO summary. “In addition, the agencies expect that some people would use the tax credits authorized by the act to purchase policies that would not cover major medical risks and that are not counted as insurance in this cost estimate.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) considered the report positive news. “Under Obamacare, premiums have more than doubled, and choices have dwindled to the point that many families have no options at all,” Ryan said in a statement. “We are on a rescue mission to bring down the cost of coverage and make sure families have access to affordable care.”
“This CBO report again confirms that the American Health Care Act achieves our mission: lowering premiums and lowering the deficit,” he added. “It is another positive step toward keeping our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said the findings underscore the GOP belief that “coverage is meaningless if you can’t afford it.”
“What hits Americans the hardest with Obamacare are the rising premiums… Obamacare’s rising premiums have eaten deep into the budgets of millions of Americans,” McCarthy said. “The CBO reports yet again that our plan will keep a promise Obamacare broke — premiums will go down. Congress must act so that people across the country can pay less for healthcare coverage and finally get relief from a failing law.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) stressed that the CBO report “makes clear that premiums are heading up in the next several years,” with premiums increasing by 20 percent in the next year.
“Republicans will crow about the premiums going down in the outer years, but the decrease in premiums only occurs because the quality of insurance will plummet,” Schumer said. “Cheaper insurance isn’t going to help anyone if it doesn’t actually lead to the healthcare people need. If you are an older American, Trumpcare is going to force you to pinch your pennies just to be able to afford health insurance. The CBO report says that some seniors could see their premiums go up by a whopping 800 percent under this bill.”
On pre-existing conditions, the CBO report states, “People who are less healthy would ultimately be unable to purchase comprehensive non-group health insurance at premiums comparable to those under current law, if they could purchase it at all.”
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the analysis “confirms what we already knew: TrumpCare will kick millions of Americans off their insurance coverage and force consumers to pay more for less.”
“The CBO report also confirms that TrumpCare would increase out-of-pocket costs, it would effectively reinstate annual and lifetime limits on coverage, and it would impose an ‘age tax’ on older workers just as they approach retirement,” Hoyer said. “I suspect many Republican Members of Congress who voted for this bill now wish they had waited to learn the results of the CBO’s analysis before doing so.”
Before the score was released, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) focused on rising Obamacare premiums in a floor speech and called the CBO report a “technical procedural step.”
“Beyond likely reiterating things we already know — like that fewer people will buy a product they don’t want when the government stops forcing them to — the updated report will allow the Senate procedurally to move forward in working to draft its own healthcare legislation,” McConnell said.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) declared he’s going to stop calling it a healthcare bill, but a “destroy healthcare bill.”
“I have never seen a healthcare bill which throws 23 million Americans off of health insurance,” he said. “That’s not a healthcare bill.”