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Budget office set to release report on House GOP health bill

25 May 2017

The health care bill that Republicans recently pushed through the House would leave 23 million more Americans without insurance and confront many others who have costly medical conditions with coverage that could prove unaffordable, Congress' official budget analysts said Wednesday.

To avoid a filibuster, Senate Republicans plan to take the bill up under budget-reconciliation rules, which only require a majority vote, but it means the legislation can not increase the federal deficit within a 10-year window.

He added, "Whatever CBO says about the House bill today, this much is absolutely clear: the status quo under Obamacare is completely unacceptable and totally unsustainable".

In those states, "it would become more difficult" for seriously ill people to buy insurance "because their premiums would continue to increase rapidly", the report says. "But that's the goal", McConnell told Reuters.

"I don't know how we get to 50 (votes) at the moment".

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont kept it succinct, tweeting, "What a disgrace" shortly after the CBO score was released.

By far the biggest savings would come from Medicaid, which serves low-income Americans.

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Congressional estimates show that the tax cuts in the House Republicans' health care package have shrunk by $69 billion. Cutbacks in subsidies for individual health insurance would likewise help cut $276 billion.

Eager to notch a political win in the GOP's years-long mission to repeal Obamacare, Republican lawmakers took a gamble by voting before the CBO could analyze last-minute changes to the bill.

In previous reports on earlier versions of the bill, the nonpartisan budget office concluded the legislation would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 24 million over a decade. This revised bill would reduce that by around 1 million - a difference of less than half a percentage point.

The CBO found that those with incomes of $26,500 would pay less for policies at all ages under Obamacare in 2026 than under the GOP bill in states that do not waive Obamacare's regulations or make moderate changes.

The CBO also notes that the AHCA could mean some Americans would buy coverage that doesn't cover "major medical risks".

The report said older people with lower income would disproportionately lose coverage.

The Trump administration responded by saying it believes the CBO's numbers are unreliable.

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CBO said states adopting those waivers could destabilize coverage for people with medical problems. Insurers in these states would be allowed to charge higher premiums to those with pre-existing conditions if they let their coverage lapse. The agency estimated that about one-sixth of the US population - more than 50 million people - live in states that would make substantial changes under the waivers.

"Over time, it would become more hard for less healthy people (including people with preexisting medical conditions) in those states to purchase insurance because their premiums would continue to increase rapidly", the CBO wrote.

In addition to the preexisting conditions factor, there are also waivers for states against Obamacare's essential health benefits mandate which keeps maternity care and emergency room visits on all individual plans.

Maine's independent Sen. Angus King issued a statement Wednesday evening saying, "This report reaffirms what we all know about this bill: that it will not only leave tens of millions of people without health insurance, but that it will also drastically increase the costs of health care for working people in ME - particularly those in rural areas".

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 it did not estimate an amount. That expansion grew enrollment by 10 million, as NPR's Alison Kodjak previously reported.

In states not getting waivers, where it estimated half the country lives, average premiums would be about 4 percent lower in 2026 than under Obama's law, the report said. In a state making those "moderate" changes to its market, that 64-year-old would pay $13,600, and in a state with no waivers, the cost would be $16,100.

She said the Affordable Care Act "does need substantial reform".

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However, younger Americans would see little change in their premiums, or even declines.

Budget office set to release report on House GOP health bill