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CBO: Senate healthcare bill expected to lead to 22 million more uninsured Americans

Just after the House of Representatives passed its healthcare bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), President Donald Trump called the bill “mean,” and several Senate Republicans insisted that they could do better. Their efforts resulted in the Better Care Reconciliation Act. Yet according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the net social impact of the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act is about the same.

In a report issued Monday afternoon, the CBO, the government agency which conducts official analyses of legislation for Congress, stated that Senate Republicans’ Obamacare replacement bill will result in 22 million more Americans being insured compared to the current law. Earlier in the year, the agency estimated that the final House-passed bill would leave 23 million uninsured.

Most of the people who would not have insurance by the end of the report’s 10-year analysis period would be people with incomes under 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

In the longer term, an increase in the number of uninsured will arise due to caps on Medicaid spending and eligibility, according the CBO’s analysis. Under the GOP bill, around 15 million fewer people would become eligible for the program.

The Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act removes the Obamacare tax penalty on people who don’t purchase insurance. The CBO estimated that because of this change, up to 22 million more people would be uninsured by 2026.

Removing the tax mandate to purchase insurance will put pressure on private insurance companies, however, because it would enable people to avoid paying for coverage until after they had become ill. This would mean fewer healthy people would purchase insurance, which in turn, would make monthly premiums more expensive for everyone else since healthy people generally pay more in premiums than insurance companies spend.

To stave off what would have inevitably turned into a so-called “death spiral,” where only unhealthy people purchase expensive premiums, earlier on Monday, prior to the CBO analysis being released, Senate Republicans introduced a revision to the bill which makes people who were uninsured for 63 days or more subject to a six-month waiting period before they can re-enter the market.

Compared to the House bill, the Senate bill is expected to cut the federal budget by $ 321 billion — around $ 200 billion more than the savings achieved by the House version, meaning that Sen. Mitch McConnell, the GOP leader in the chamber, will have a fair amount of money to offer his Republican colleagues who might not be fully on-board with the measure.

The persuasion process for Republicans will almost certainly involve attacking the CBO report, something they have been doing for many years.

In 2011, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich argued that his fellow party members should eliminate the agency entirely.

“If you are serious about real health reform, you must abolish the Congressional Budget Office because it lies,” he said in 2011 at a debate sponsored by a conservative group.

Matthew Sheffield

A writer, web developer, and former tv producer, Matthew Sheffield covers politics, media, and technology for Salon. You can email him via m.sheffield@salon.com or follow him on Twitter.

Matthew Sheffield.

Source: Salon: in-depth news, politics, business, technology & culture > Politics

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