Published: Thu, May 25, 2017
Business | By Max Garcia

CBO: New version of AHCA still reduces deficit

The CBO report released on Wednesday found that the American Health Care Act will save $119 billion over the next decade at a cost of 23 million more uninsured people than under Obamacare.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, premiums are part of the story, but we know something else that the CBO was looking at was, frankly, the overall quality of health care under this new legislation.

The report could give added ammunition to Democrats who have accused President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans of putting sick and low-income people at risk with their effort to roll back former President Barack Obama's signature 2010 healthcare law, formally known as the Affordable Care Act but often called Obamacare.

While the topline numbers were little changed from a previous version of the bill that was withdrawn from consideration, which the CBO found in March would insure 24 million fewer people and save $150 billion, the report found that the latest changes to Obamacare regulations would make insurance unattainable for many sick people and raise costs for others. Far from it, the study predicted insurance markets would become "unstable" in waiver states as people with pre-existing conditions faced higher and higher premiums that many would be unable to afford. "AARP is taking a strong stand against the American Health Care Act for one simple reason: it is a bad bill". Bill Foster of Naperville called it an "irresponsible affront to hard-working Americans". The cost analysis is unlikely to help the House version of the bill's prospects in the Senate, according to published reports. These include maternity care, mental health services, substance abuse treatment, and pediatric dental benefits.

Reaction on Wall Street was muted, with shares of hospitals affected by the cuts to Medicaid, like Community Health Systems, and health insurers specializing in Medicaid, such as Molina Healthcare MOH.N and Centene Corp CNC.N unchanged in light after-hours trading. States that take full advantage of the waivers could see average premiums decrease by an average 40 percent on the individual market, but consumers could face very large out-of-pocket costs if they need care that is no longer covered.

But the first weeks of those talks have not yielded a quick breakthrough, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, acknowledged in an interview with Reuters Wednesday that he is unsure how he will be able to get an agreement. Cutbacks in subsidies for individual health insurance would likewise help cut $276 billion.

GOP conservatives and moderates are divided ideologically in the Senate just as they were in the House, where the repeal-and-replace bill squeaked by.

It should be unthinkable that anything resembling this bill can pass in the Senate and become law. We see from CBO a forecast that says under this Republican bill you would see a wide disparity, with the less healthy seeing much higher bills and also older people seeing much higher bills.

The new CBO score predicts the AHCA would cover 1 million more Americans than Republicans' previous version of the bill, which the agency estimated would have left 24 million more people uninsured than Obamacare in 2026. A change in the rules governing how much more insurers can charge older people than younger people, effective in 2019, would directly alter the premiums faced by different age groups, substantially reducing premiums for young adults and raising premiums for older people.

Premiums would also 'vary significantly, ' the report said, 'according to health status and the types of benefits provided, and less healthy people would face extremely high premiums'.

It may sound like legislative jargon, but this is a big problem for Republicans.

Trump's Health and Human Services secretary, Tom Price, dismissed the new analysis. The CBO did not calculate an average change in premiums.

Texas Rep. Pete Sessions told reporters what several House Republicans have been arguing for months: They don't expect many states to take the waivers. "That's plainly what CBO says".

"Today's devastating CBO score hammers home Trumpcare's dire consequences for working families and seniors across the country", House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in the statement, slamming the bill as a "billionaire's tax cut disguised as a health care bill".

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