Senate health bill to raise uninsured by 22 million, CBO says

Alvin Kelly
June 27, 2017

But there was no requirement that individuals purchase insurance. Without enough healthy customers making regular premium payments, insurance companies would be forced to raise prices, driving more customers away - a situation sometimes described as a "death spiral".

A revision to the bill that imposes a penalty for prolonged lapses in insurance coverage addresses the original bill's provision to drop the Obamacare penalty on those who do not have insurance.

The budget office report said it believes the Senate bill "would increase the number of uninsured people substantially".

It's not clear how strong that effect would be.

Beyond simply repealing Obamacare, Cornyn says the Senate bill does offer improvements for health care consumers. "There's got to be a better plan out there for us because we have to have insurance". If you don't do that, you are going to anger the base of the Republican Party, and it will be impossible for us to proceed with anything else, any other priorities for Republicans like tax reform.

Slashing the Medicaid program, which covers 1.3 million Coloradans, would simply shift costs, not eliminate them, forcing state lawmakers to be the heavies in deciding who's covered and at what cost to roads, schools or any number of critical services.

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Budget analysts estimated that 15 million more people would be uninsured in 2018, mostly because the bill would scrap penalties tied to Obamacare's individual mandate.

The CBO estimated that the House bill would cause 23 million people to lose insurance.

While the Senate bill does not repeal ObamaCare, it does not improve it either. NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now.

"Medicaid is one of the big drivers of our unsustainable fiscal position long-term".

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Nevertheless, senior Trump aides have repeatedly sought to cast doubt on the budget office's credibility. And, Scott, these numbers come from the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan bean counters on Capitol Hill.

The Association for Community Affiliated Plans represents state Medicaid plans, and today the group launched a six-state, seven-figure cable ad campaign.

Aside from just revealing the monetary aspect of the Senate's legislation, the CBO's score also predicts how many Americans would be left without insurance under the plan. And those who'd be losing coverage would be disproportionately older people at the lower end of the income ladder, especially people between 50 and 64 years old for whom health insurance is a really serious thing.

HORSLEY: Right. Once you get to be 65, you get kicked into Medicare.

CBO found that premiums would likely rise next year and the year after under the Senate bill, but would fall after that.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) can now move forward to make changes to the BCRA, or move to hold a vote this week.

HORSLEY: Well, it probably doesn't help. The bill will fail if just three of the 52 Republican senators oppose it, an event that would deal a humiliating blow to President Donald Trump and Senate leaders. The announcement comes after some GOP senators expressed opposition to the bill in its current form. Those deep cuts are also why CBO projects the bill would, on net, save the federal government $321 billion over the next ten years.

SIEGEL: Of course that wouldn't sweeten the pot for people who think more deficit reduction is a vital part of the. If the Senate is able to pass its legislation, another House vote will be necessary to either vote on the Senate bill or some other compromise measure. So now you're creating this new inhumane barrier to coverage when they need it. The last-minute fix that they put in would penalize people who don't get coverage.

SIEGEL: This bill would not only roll back Obamacare. It would also change Medicaid very seriously. What does the CBO say about that?

HORSLEY: Yeah. This goes after the traditional Medicaid program for the poor and disabled. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said she had not gotten to a "yes" vote yet and wanted to learn more about the bill's potential effects on her state.

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