January 7, 2011 in Nation/World

CBO warns health repeal would cost $230 billion

Noam N. Levey Tribune Washington bureau
 

WASHINGTON – The Republican plan to repeal the health care law would drive up federal deficits by $230 billion by 2021, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office concluded Thursday, undercutting GOP efforts to seize the mantle of fiscal responsibility.

Overturning the law President Barack Obama signed in March would also leave 32 million more Americans without health coverage, the analysts concluded.

And although health insurance premiums would be lower in some cases, the analysts estimated that without the law, consumers would get skimpier coverage and many would actually pay more because they would lose insurance subsidies included in the new law.

House Republican leaders quickly dismissed the new projection from the Congressional Budget Office as unrealistic. Some analysts have also questioned whether all the savings in the sweeping health overhaul will be realized.

“CBO is entitled to their opinion,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Thursday. “I do not believe that repealing the job-killing health care law will increase the deficit.”

But the closely watched CBO, an agency which lawmakers from both parties have historically relied on, is widely considered one of the most important independent sources for information about the impact of proposed legislation.

The new estimate underscored the cost of repealing the health care law at a time when millions of Americans have been losing health benefits and insurers are pushing up premiums.

As it launches its campaign to dismantle health care reform, the GOP has strategically exempted the cost of repealing the bill from new House rules that require new costs or spending to be offset by cuts elsewhere.

The House is to vote next Wednesday on the two-page resolution to repeal the health law.

Though that is expected to pass, the legislation is not likely to go anywhere in the Senate, where Democrats retain a majority. Even conservative Democrats such as Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson have expressed opposition to repeal.

In the House, Republicans have not said how they would seek to change the law if their repeal effort fails. GOP leaders have said that various committees would hold hearings in coming months to examine alternatives and pull together legislation that would address rising costs and eroding coverage.

On Thursday, however, Republicans rejected Democratic calls for hearings on the impact of repeal before a vote.

“We believe that we owe the American people an up or down vote,” said Rep. John Kline, R-Minn.

GOP leaders on the House Rules Committee rejected bids from Democrats to offer amendments to the repeal resolution that would protect parts of the law, including expanded access to breast cancer screenings for women and new restrictions on insurance companies.

That drew heated criticism from Democrats on the committee.

“You’re saying, ‘Let’s repeal this bill. We don’t have a replacement. Trust us,’ ” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. “So much for the open process. There is none.”

Speaking to reporters elsewhere at the Capitol, Boehner countered: “I promised a more open process. I didn’t promise that every single bill was going to be an open bill.”


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