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CBO score on ‘Trumpcare’ should be warning to Senate GOP, Murray says

UPDATED: Wed., May 24, 2017

A new report that estimates 23 million people would lose health insurance under the House Republicans’ plan to repeal Obamacare should prompt their Senate colleagues to rethink efforts to write their own plan, Sen. Patty Murray said Wednesday.

“I think it should give every member of the Senate Republicans real pause,” said Murray, the ranking Democrat on the committee that handles most health care issues. “They will be going home to people who will lose their insurance.”

But Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a top House Republican who voted for the American Health Care Act earlier this month, said the report reinforces the GOP’s “rescue mission” on health care. It will lower premiums and reduce the deficit, she said.

The Congressional Budget Office gave the revised AHCA a slightly better review on some counts than the original version.

Rather than an extra 24 million people it said would be without insurance by 2026 under the first proposal, the CBO dropped that estimate to 23 million. Health insurance premiums likely would go down for younger, healthier people; they likely would go up for older people and those with pre-existing or new medical conditions. Some states would allow companies to offer plans with fewer “essential benefits,” which would result in lower premiums, but also less coverage.

The proposal would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion over 10 years by reducing spending on Medicaid and eliminating some tax credits while doing away with taxes on upper income people and some excise taxes enacted under Obamacare.

“The CBO report doesn’t tell the whole story when it comes to the benefits of this bill but we’re one step closer to keeping our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, which continues to fail,” McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said in a news release. “We will continue to work on reforms that lower prices and give people meaningful choices to find health care coverage that meets their needs.”

Just as the Affordable Care Act came to be known as Obamacare, Murray and other Democrats have begun calling the AHCA “Trumpcare.”

“Unfortunately, today’s CBO score tells us what we already knew about Trumpcare,” Murray said. Costs would go up for people with pre-existing conditions, millions on Medicaid could lose coverage and Planned Parenthood patients may have to find a new provider, she said.

A select group of Senate Republicans is working in closed-door sessions on a separate plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he hopes that plan will be ready for a vote before the August recess.

McConnell, R-Ky., who did not issue a statement in response to the new budget score, suggested in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday that he still harbored doubts over whether his party could muster enough votes to pass any kind of health care bill this year.

“I don’t know how we get to 50 (votes) at the moment,” he said, referring to a situation in which Vice President Mike Pence would cast the deciding vote. “But that’s the goal.”

Instead of addressing the future number of uninsured Americans under the Republican plan – projected to immediately jump in 2018 by 14 million – House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., on Wednesday chose to focus on the CBO’s estimate that premiums overall would fall under the AHCA.

“This CBO report again confirms that the American Health Care Act achieves our mission: lowering premiums and lowering the deficit,” Ryan said in a statement. “It is another positive step toward keeping our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

But unlike Obamacare, which was the subject of multiple committee hearings and “markup” sessions where changes could be made, Murray said the Senate GOP plan is being drafted in private. It could be brought to the Senate without a hearing and voted on after a few days.

The CBO score on the first version of the House bill led to confrontations between critics and House members at town hall meetings. Murray predicted a similar reaction for senators who support anything close to the final House version.

“They will be facing the music at home if they vote for this,” she said.

Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said Senate Republicans should drop efforts to repeal Obamacare and work in a bipartisan way to fix it.

“Let’s work together on innovative solutions to drive down costs and improve access, such as Basic Health Program and community-based long-term care,” Cantwell said in a news release.

The Washington Post contributed to this report.

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