Critics of GOP health bill get ammunition from budget score

Critics of GOP health bill get ammunition from budget score

WASHINGTON — Critics of GOP health care legislation got fresh ammunition from a report that estimates the bill would increase the ranks of the uninsured by 14 million people next year alone, and 24 million over a decade.

The findings from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office could make prospects for the legislation backed by President Donald Trump even tougher, with a few House and Senate conservatives already in open revolt and moderate Republicans queasy about big cuts to the Medicaid safety net for the poor.

But with the legislation headed for votes in the House Budget Committee within days and floor action next week, its supporters at the White House and on Capitol Hill showed no sign of retreat. Instead, they attacked the parts of the CBO report they didn’t like, while touting the more favourable findings, including smaller deficits from their bill and lower premiums over time.

“I’m pretty encouraged by it, it actually exceeded my expectations,” House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said on Fox News Channel shortly after the report was released Monday evening.

Ryan said the CBO findings about millions losing coverage were to be expected, because the GOP legislation removes the penalty in former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act aimed at coercing people into buying coverage.

“If we’re not going to force someone to buy something they don’t want to buy they’re not going to buy it, and that’s kind of obvious,” Ryan said.

The GOP legislation would use tax credits to help consumers buy health coverage, expand health savings accounts, phase out an expansion of Medicaid and cap that program for the future, end some requirements for health plans under Obama’s law, and scrap a number of taxes.

Ryan pointed to other CBO figures, including that the GOP bill reduces federal deficits by $337 billion over a decade, and begins to bring down insurance premiums by around 10 per cent starting in 2020, though that comes only after premiums sharply rise in 2018 and 2019.

Democrats scoffed at Ryan’s positive take, calling the CBO analysis damning evidence that Republicans are interested only in giving hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the rich, which their bill would accomplish, while yanking health coverage from the poor.

“I hope they would pull the bill. It’s really the only decent thing to do,” House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said. “How can they look their constituents in the eye when they say to them ’24 million of you will no longer have coverage.'”

At the White House, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price rejected portions of the CBO’s findings, in comments that seemed to contradict Speaker Ryan.

“We believe that the plan that we’re putting in place is going to insure more individuals than currently are insured. So we think the CBO simply has it wrong,” Price said

It was unclear exactly what impact the CBO news would have on the debate. Republicans were already planning to move forward with no Democratic votes, aiming for action by the full House next week and the Senate the week after that. Senate prospects look particularly dicey, given the GOP’s slim 52-48 majority and vociferous objections from several Republicans including Rand Paul of Kentucky and Tom Cotton of Arkansas.

Senators were just beginning to absorb the CBO findings Monday night. The approaching winter storm had delayed the arrival of House members to the Capitol.

“It’s awful. It has to be a concern,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., said of the budget office findings. “President Trump said he wanted as many people covered as under Obamacare.”

“At the end of the day, we should pause and try to improve the product in light of the CBO analysis rather than just rejecting it,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Price planned to meet with GOP senators Tuesday to discuss the issue.

All along Republican leaders have assumed that once it comes time to vote, few if any Republicans will dare vote “no” on the repeal and replacement of “Obamacare” that their party has been promising for seven years. They are relying on Trump’s popularity with conservative voters to close the deal, and Trump on Monday announced he would be travelling to Kentucky for a rally early next week.

But the Congressional Budget report seemed likely to increase some Republicans’ discomfort with their approach, especially those representing states that expanded Medicaid coverage under Obama’s law. Roughly 14 million fewer people would have Medicaid coverage over a decade as the GOP bill cuts $880 billion from the federal-state health program for the poor and disabled, the CBO said.

Trump pledged during the presidential campaign that he would not cut Medicaid, but the bill would violate that pledge, as well as fail to meet Trump’s stated goal of “insurance for everybody.”

The CBO report also undercuts a central argument that Trump and other Republicans have cited for swiftly rolling back Obama’s health care overhaul: that the health insurance markets created under the 2010 law are unstable and about to implode. The congressional experts said that largely would not be the case and the market for individual health insurance policies “would probably be stable in most areas either under current law or the (GOP) legislation.”

___

Associated Press writers Matthew Daly, Alan Fram, Stephen Ohlemacher, Mary Clare Jalonick, Richard Lardner and Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.

Erica Werner, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Start to finish: Okanagan Sun conclude regular season this weekend

The Sun visit the Westshore Rebels in the final game of the season on Sunday

RDCO to host Repair Café to help Kelowna residents fix household items

‘If you can carry it in under your arm, they’ll do their best to tackle the problem, with your help’

Kelowna Sally Ann extends helping hand to thief who stole shed

‘If you find yourself in a place of need, come talk to us, we are here to help’

ALC prohibits land exemption status for three Westbank school sites

The decision means a new secondary school won’t be built along Webber Road

West Kelowna gets more firefighting power

10 new recruits have officially been placed on the city’s roster

Scheer, Trudeau, Singh haggle over potential minority government outcome

If you believe the polls, it appears the Liberals and Conservatives are neck-and-neck

Canucks beat Stanley Cup champs 4-3 in a shootout

Leivo nets winner, Vancouver dumps St. Louis for fourth straight win

‘The more you test, the more you find’: Beef recalls a sign of success, experts say

Despite appearances, experts say a recent rise in major recalls is not a sign of food supply problems

VIDEO: Meet your Kelowna-Lake Country candidates

All seven Kelowna-Lake Country candidates answer questions about themselves and their policy

VIDEO: Meet your Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola candidates

Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola candidates answer questions about themselves and their policy

One year later: Vernon pot stores look back at legalization

Edibles made legal on first anniversary of recreational cannabis

Memorial remembers North Okanagan’s most marginalized

Prayers and flowers for those who have died on the streets

Japanese buyer expands wood pellet contract with B.C.’s Pinnacle

Mitsui and Co. increases contract with Interior energy producer

Great Vernon Pumpkin Race to star in South Korean documentary

Pumpkin Classic event to kick off this weekend with gourd weigh-ins

Most Read