The American Health Care Act, the House Republicans’ bill that would repeal and replace Obamacare, would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion but would increase the number of uninsured people by 24 million by 2026 versus the current Affordable Care Act, according to a report released Monday by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation.
The report said 14 million more Americans would be uninsured than under the Affordable Care Act in 2018, most of them by choice because the act would repeal the penalties for failing to have insurance under the ACA. The number of uninsured Americans would increase by 24 million Americans by 2024 because of changes in Medicaid, as some states would discontinue the expansion created by the ACA while per enrollee spending would be capped.
By 2026, about 52 million people would not have insurance, compared to 28 million who would not have it if the ACA continued.
The AHCA would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion over 2017-26, mostly by reducing spending for Medicaid and ending subsidies for nongroup health insurance. Spending would drop by $1.2 trillion, while revenues would drop by $0.9 trillion.
Nongroup insurance would be stable under both the ACA and the AHCA, the report said. It said the tax credits contained in the AHCA would maintain market stability. Individual premiums would be projected to increase faster than under the ACA before 2020 and then fall faster afterwards.
Members of the state’s congressional delegation had varying responses to the findings or were not ready to respond.
James Arnold, spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, said, “The congressman still opposes the current House version because he believes that leadership is moving too quickly on health care reform. He believes that as representatives, members of the House owe the American people a level of transparency in this process that they didn’t have in the past. He believes that Arkansans need health care reform that fully eliminates failed policy, giving conservatives a real opportunity to create an environment for the free market to address the coverage problems in our health care industry. He also still has concerns about the refundable tax credit. Beyond that, our office is still digesting the rest of the CBO news.”
Ryan Saylor, spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, released a statement prior to the CBO report saying, “The congressman does not yet have a stated position on the bill. He is listening to constituents and asking questions as he prepares for this legislation to come to the House Budget Committee on Wednesday.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton’s office has not yet responded to a request for comment on the CBO report, but the Republican junior senator from Arkansas has been outspoken in his opposition to the bill. He said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that the bill cannot pass the Senate, saying it would adversely affect millions of Americans and wouldn’t reduce the cost of health insurance. Meanwhile, it would put the House majority at risk.
“I would say to my friends in the House of Representatives, with whom I served, do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote,” he said.
Cotton said the CBO director, Mick Mulvaney, “is not Moses. He doesn’t come down from the mountaintops with stone tablets. They’re human like the rest of us; they can make mistakes. But they do provide an important amount of information and analysis that allows senators and congressmen to make informed choices.”
U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., told Talk Business & Politics in an interview broadcast Sunday that the process needs to slow down.
“The thing that’s so important is lowering the cost curve, making things affordable,” he said. “So many people in Arkansas have had their premiums doubled, so many are in situations with $5-10,000 deductibles. That’s not insurance. That’s catastrophic insurance and is really not acceptable.”
Claire Burghoff, spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, said, “The report was just released. He’s taking time to study it.”
U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, sent this to Talk Business & Politics: “I was pleased to see the CBO recognized the goals of lower premium costs for families, reduced taxes and compliance costs for small business owners, more plan choices for individuals and families, and badly needed Medicaid reforms. With that said, I will continue to review the CBO report details. It is critical to note that this CBO cost estimate is only on this first of three phases of health insurance reform being considered by the Congress and the administration.”