Published: Fri, May 26, 2017
Local | By Vivian Poole

GOP health bill: 23M more uninsured; sick risk higher costs

GOP health bill: 23M more uninsured; sick risk higher costs

"The American Health Care Act would have a devastating impact on working families, driving many deeper into hunger and poverty", said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. But the task is proving more hard than they expected.

The anticipated report from the Congressional Budget Office has shed new light on how the Republicans' American Health Care Act could affect premiums for many in the U.S. The report was released just weeks after Republicans narrowly passed a health bill through the House of Representatives. All Democrats seem likely to oppose the bill, and Vice President Mike Pence could break a 50-50 tie. Some Senate Republicans say they'll need to change that.

"The bottom line is very simple".

"The report makes clear that Trumpcare would be a cancer on the American health care system", said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., using the nickname Democrats have tried pinning on the bill. "And I think that's why our Republican colleagues are having such trouble putting together their own bill".

But while many were panicking at the thought of 23 million Americans losing their health insurance coverage in the next few years, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said that the numbers in the CBO "comforted" him.

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The report said people with preexisting conditions in states that could accept a waiver under an AHCA provision could see their premiums skyrocket and even be priced out of the insurance market.

The No. 2 Senate GOP leader, John Cornyn of Texas, expressed optimism that senators were narrowing differences and said staff could "start work" over the recess on writing some language of a Senate bill, but he conceded, "There's nothing final". Kevin Brady, R-Texas, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

But two small-business groups, the Main Street Alliance and the Small Business Majority, said the bill could hurt their members, many of whom rely on the individual insurance market for their coverage.

The budget office projected that premiums in those states would be lower for healthy people than under current law because their coverage would be narrower, but did not estimate an amount. The insurer lost more than $100 million in 2016 selling individual policies under the law, said Danette Wilson, the company's chief executive.

The report found that under the House measure, people in some regions with pre-existing medical conditions or the seriously ill "would ultimately be unable to purchase" robust coverage at premiums comparable to today's prices, "if they could purchase at all".

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The new analysis by the CBO, a non-partisan entity that reports to Congress, makes it even more hard for Republicans in the Senate, where they hold a slim majority, to approve the measure that was passed in the House, with its much more conservative stamp, on May 4. It said states could choose to let insurers charge extra for maternity coverage with costs that could exceed $1,000 monthly.

Acknowledging that it can't pinpoint which states might seek the waiver, CBO analysts project that one-sixth of the US population reside in states that could choose not to cover essential health services and may opt to charge people with preexising conditions more in in premiums than healthy people.

It would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion over a decade, less than the $150 billion in savings projected in late March for an earlier version of the bill.

Many congressional Republicans took a sharply different tack, emphasizing some of the report's more positive findings.

Shortly before the CBO figures were announced, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell expressed his doubts that he could assemble a simple majority to approve the so-called Trumpcare proposal.

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