Fewer insured under GOP bill

Body: 

Yasmeen Abutaleb

Reuters

WASHINGTON — An estimated 23 million people would lose health coverage by 2026 under Republican legislation aimed at repealing Obamacare, a nonpartisan congressional agency said on Wednesday in the first calculation of the new bill’s potential impact.

The report from the Congressional Budget Office also said federal deficits would fall by $119 billion between 2017 and 2026 under the bill, which was approved this month by the Republican-dominated House of Representatives. The CBO score raises the stakes for Republican senators now working on their own version of the legislation.

House Republicans came under sharp criticism for passing the bill before the CBO could make its assessment. The Trump administration already has relied on the House bill’s healthcare spending cuts in its proposed federal budget.

The bill is called the American Health Care Act and it would fulfill a long-running Republican goal — repealing and replacing much of former President Barack Obama’s 2010 Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare. President Donald Trump, who made replacing Obamacare a key campaign promise in 2016, and other Republicans say it is too costly and creates unwarranted government interference in health care decisions.

Congress is aiming to pass the bill under a process called reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority of votes in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 52-48 majority, instead of 60 votes. Under those rules, all elements of the bill must have a direct budgetary impact or else they must be stricken from the legislation.

The CBO said federal deficits would fall by $119 billion between 2017 and 2026 under the Republican bill.

The House bill would eliminate most Obamacare taxes that help subsidize private health coverage for individuals, roll back the government’s Medicaid health plan for the poor and disabled and replace the law’s income-based tax credits for buying medical coverage with credits based on age.

A group of 13 Republican senators led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are expected to draft their own version of the health care bill in the coming months.

The new CBO score predicts the AHCA would cover 1 million more Americans than a previous version of the bill, which the agency estimated would have left 24 million more people uninsured than Obamacare in 2026.

Enactment of the House health care plan would affect most Wisconsinites, according to a new report by the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families; the report was released in advance of the CBO score.

This year, the number of Wisconsin residents enrolling in the ACA marketplace rose to 242,863, including 1,486 in Douglas County. About 90 percent of Douglas County residents receive the advanced premium tax credit, averaging $486.

According to the Wisconsin Council, even if it is not enacted, actions taken by Congress and President Trump imperil the subsidized marketplace insurance, which is particularly important in Wisconsin’s more rural counties, according to the Wisconsin report.

Over the long term, the biggest impact on access to health insurance and health services in Wisconsin would probably come from changes that AHCA seeks to make to the fundamental structure of Medicaid, which now provides health care for nearly 1.2 million Wisconsinites. About 36 percent of Douglas County residents are covered by Medicaid.

"Today, the CBO confirmed the House health care bill will make families pay more for less care and increase the number of people who are uninsured, said Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., in a prepared statement. "Wisconsin families struggling with health care costs will see average premiums rise next year, older Wisconsinites will pay an age tax and those with pre-existing conditions will no longer be guaranteed protections. I will not support partisan legislation that increases costs, cuts coverage and imposes an undue burden on older Americans and those with pre-existing conditions.

"The people of Wisconsin did not send me to Washington to take people’s health care away."

Telegram editor Shelley Nelson contributed to this report.