CBO report on GOP health care plan supports Democrats’ charges

WASHINGTON — Democrats seized on the Congressional Budget Office’s report estimating that 24 million fewer Americans would be insured under the Republican health care plan 10 years from now, arguing their colleagues should abandon the effort. House Speaker Paul Ryan put a positive spin on the report. The White House disputed its accuracy.

“My god. Stop this now,” Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy Tweeted at Ryan shortly after the report was released late Monday afternoon. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif, called the 24 million figure “catastrophic.”

The CBO’s 24 million figure is significantly higher than other independent analyses estimated, and raises questions about President Trump’s initial claims that no one would lose their health care coverage under his plan. The CBO projected that costs eventually would be higher for older people buying coverage and lower for younger people, averaging out to a 10 percent reduction in premiums on the individual market 10 years from now. The CBO also found that the law would reduce the deficit by $337 billion over 10 years.

“The CBO’s estimate makes clear that Trumpcare will cause serious harm to millions of American families,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in a statement. “Tens of millions will lose their coverage, and millions more, particularly seniors, will have to pay more for health care. … This should be a looming stop sign for the Republicans’ repeal effort.”

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told reporters the White House “strenuously” disagreed with the report, and said it was “not believable” that 14 million people would lose insurance next year after the bill passed.

Meanwhile, Ryan released a statement putting a positive spin on the report, arguing it “confirms” that his legislation “will lower premiums and improve access to quality, affordable care.”

He argued that the Republican Congress could take additional steps to lower costs that are not reflected in the analysis. “Our plan is not about forcing people to buy expensive, one-size-fits-all coverage,” he said. “It is about giving people more choices and better access to a plan they want and can afford.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., center, standing with Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., right, and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., left, speaks during a news conference on the American Health Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Other GOP members of Congress suggested that the millions of people who will lose coverage may not want the insurance in the first place. The Republican bill repeals the individual mandate, instead penalizing people with higher premiums if they leave and reenter the individual market.

“Unlike Obamacare, our plan does not force Americans to buy insurance plans they may not want or even need,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a statement.

At least one Republican senator expressed dismay at the government office’s prediction that 24 million fewer people would be covered. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a statement the CBO report was a “cause for alarm” and that House Republicans should “slow down” their process of reforming the health care system.

A slew of senators heading to the Capitol to vote Monday night, including Sens. Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, both Republicans from Iowa, said they had not yet had a chance to read the report.

“I’m going to read it tonight,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, said.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said he would read it carefully. “I think we’re off to a good beginning,” he said of the health care bill.

On the floor of the Senate, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called the bill “Robin Hood in reverse.”

“It’s clear this is an eye-popping transfer of wealth away from older people, women and kids and the most vulnerable into the wallets of the fortunate few,” Wyden said, referring to the bill, which cuts Obamacare’s payroll tax on wealthy Americans. “Somehow people have the chutzpah to say it’s a health care bill? I don’t think so.”

The legislation is scheduled to be marked up in the House Budget Committee Wednesday before moving to a floor vote.

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