According to a report released March 13 by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Republican-led effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would lead to 14 million more uninsured people in 2018, with that total climbing to about 24 million over 10 years.
Republican leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), were quick to discredit some of the report’s findings. Ryan suggested that the numbers do not properly take into account those that would choose to re-purchase what he described as lower cost and more individually tailored coverage.
“Our plan is not about forcing people to buy expensive, one-size-fits-all coverage,” Ryan said in a statement as reported by BNA Daily Tax Report. “It is about giving people more choices and better access to a plan they want and can afford.”
Yet, Democrats seized upon CBO estimates that older Americans would face potentially steep increases in premiums and health care costs under the plan, known as the American Health Care Act. Cuts to Medicaid have also been a significant point of tension as CBO suggests upwards of 52 million more people would lack coverage by 2026 when considering the Medicaid rollbacks.
While the CBO presents another potential setback to Republican plans to replace the ACA, the fact that CBO estimates their plan would initially reduce the deficit by $300 billion over 10 years would allow the House to proceed with plans to pass the legislation through reconciliation rules – which means that the Senate would only need to pass the package by a simple majority vote.
Congressional passage is far from assured. In addition to Democrats, numerous Senate Republicans and more conservative House Republicans have spoken out about various aspects of the House legislation, including the proposed Medicaid expansion cuts and proposal to offer tax credits to help purchase insurance. Some Members of Congress have even suggested that Republican leaders go back to the drawing board.
The complicated battle continues this week with an immediate resolution in doubt.
Jamie Tucker is the director, public policy strategy and operations at Independent Sector.