WASHINGTON – The health care bill that Republicans recently pushed through the House would leave 23 million more Americans without insurance and confront many others who have costly medical conditions with coverage that could prove unaffordable, Congress’ official budget analysts said Wednesday.
Premiums on average would fall compared to President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul – a chief goal of many Republicans – but that would be partly because policies would typically provide less coverage, said the report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
In some areas of the country, people with pre-existing medical conditions and others who were seriously ill “would ultimately be unable to purchase” robust coverage at premiums comparable to today’s prices, “if they could purchase at all,” the report said.
Democrats jumped on the report as further evidence that the GOP effort to repeal Obama’s 2010 law – a staple of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and those of numerous GOP congressional candidates for years – would be destructive. It comes three weeks after the House passed the legislation with only Republican votes, and as Senate Republicans try crafting their own version, which they say will be different.
“The report makes clear that Trumpcare would be a cancer on the American health care system,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., using the nickname Democrats have tried pinning on the bill. Schumer said the legislation would end up “causing costs to skyrocket, making coverage unaffordable for those with preexisting conditions and many seniors, and kicking millions off of their health insurance.”
Trump’s Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, dismissed the new analysis.
“The CBO was wrong when they analyzed Obamacare’s effect on cost and coverage,” he said of the agency’s report on Obama’s law, “and they are wrong again.”
That was sharply different from Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan’s take.
“This CBO report again confirms that the American Health Care Act achieves our mission: lowering premiums and lowering the deficit. It is another positive step toward keeping our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.”
The report said the House bill – named the American Health Care Act – would reduce federal deficits by $119 billion over the next decade.
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 budget office raised concerns about a key legislative compromise that allowed the bill to narrowly pass the House on May 4, by a vote of 217-213.
To win needed votes after several embarrassing setbacks, Republican conservatives and moderates struck a deal that would let states get federal waivers to permit insurers to charge higher premiums to some people in poor health, and to ignore the standard set of benefits required by Obama’s statute.
CBO said states adopting those waivers run the risk of destabilizing coverage for people with medical problems. The agency estimated that about one-sixth of the U.S. population – more than 50 million people – live in states that would make substantial changes under the waivers.
“Over time, it would become more difficult 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 report said.
The new estimates will serve as a starting point for GOP senators starting to write their own version of the legislation as they consider changing the House’s Medicaid cuts, tax credits and other policies.