The Congressional Budget Office released its score of the Senate health care bill Monday afternoon, finding 22 million more Americans would be uninsured under the GOP plan than if Obamacare remained the law of the land.
The new tally is 1 million fewer, over a 10-year period, than the CBO’s estimate for the House health care bill Republicans passed in early May.
By 2026, if the Senate bill were to be implemented, an estimated 49 million Americans would be uninsured, compared to the 28 million who would likely lack insurance under Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act.
The White House brushed off the bad news in a statement Monday evening that slammed CBO’s ‘history of inaccuracy’ and said that the non-partisan entity ‘must not be trusted blindly.’
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was spotted on Capitol Hill Monday as GOP senators unveiled some changes to their health care plan
Conservative Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., seen surrounded by reporters on Capitol Hill last week, is one of the GOP hold-outs on the Senate health care bill
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, the chamber’s most well-known moderate, has also expressed reservations on the bill
CBO had noted that the reason why there are ballooning numbers of uninsured is ‘primarily because the penalty for not having insurance would be eliminated.’
The Congressional scorekeeper found that the Senate bill, dubbed the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, would reduce federal spending by $321 billion by 2026, a higher cost savings than what the CBO estimated for the House bill, which was $119 billion.
The No. 1 reason for the savings is the Senate bill reduces the rate of growth for Medicaid by 26 percent by 2026, compared to current law. Other savings come from changes in the subsidies that were offered under the Affordable Care Act.
However, savings would be offset by other expenditures, such as money that would go toward trying to bring premiums down, along with revenue lost from no longer charging taxpayers a penalty for not buying health insurance.
The price of premiums, which Republicans have pointed to when explaining why they must quickly act to rid the country of President Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment, will actually rise about 20 percent more in 2018, according to the estimate.
That’s because once the individual mandate – which forces Americans to buy insurance or face a tax penalty – is scrapped, fewer healthier people would be left in the insurance pools.
By 2026, average premiums for a benchmark plan are expected to be 20 percent lower than what they’d be under Obamacare.
The White House took issue with the CBO’s assessment in a statement on Monday that evening that hammered the existing health law.
‘We know the facts. To date, we have seen average individual market premiums more than double and insurers across the country opting out of healthcare exchanges,’ it said. ‘As more and more people continue to lose coverage and face fewer healthcare choices, President Trump is committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare, which has failed the American people for far too long.’
The plans that Republicans are proposing, however, are expected to be of a lower caliber.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has called for the repeal of Obamacare, but won’t vote for the Senate bill in its current form
‘Some people enrolled in nongroup insurance would experience substantial increases in what they would spend on health care even though benchmark premiums would decline, on average, in 2020 and later years,’ the CBO estimate warned.
‘Because nongroup insurance would pay for a smaller average share of benefits under this legislation, most people purchasing it would have higher out-of-pocket spending on health care than under current law,’ it continued.
Once the CBO dropped its numbers, Republicans went on attack.
‘Remember, the CBO has a long track record of being way off in their modeling, with predictions often differing drastically from what actually happens,’ advised the Republican National Committee’s Deputy Communications Director Mike Reed in an email to reporters.
The White House statement that came out later mimicked the RNC’s.
‘The CBO has consistently proven it cannot accurately predict how healthcare legislation will impact insurance coverage. This history of inaccuracy, as demonstrated by its flawed report on coverage, premiums, and predicted deficit arising out of Obamacare, reminds us that its analysis must not be trusted blindly,’ it said.
The statement went on to ding CBO for estimating incorrectly that 24 million people would be covered under Obamacare by 2016.
‘It was off by an astounding 13 million people – more than half—as less than 11 million were actually covered,’ the statement said. ‘Then, CBO estimated that 30 million fewer people would be uninsured in 2016, but then it had to reduce its estimate to 22 million, further illustrating its inability to present reliable healthcare predictions.’
The CBO’s current director, Keith Hall, worked for President George W. Bush and was appointed by a Republican-led Congress, in an effort shepherded by Tom Price, the current secretary of Health and Human Services, who supports Republicans’ Obamacare repeal efforts.
Earlier this year, the office’s scoring of the House health care bill stalled support for the measure momentarily, but then conservative Freedom Caucus members and moderates were able to work out a deal.
President Trump celebrated the feat with a Rose Garden ceremony on May 4, before the second CBO score on the House’s legislation came out.
When it was released the non-partisan scorekeeper estimated that 23 million people would lose health insurance under the House Republican plan over 10 years, when compared to sticking with Obamacare, the status quo.
The original House bill had 24 million people becoming uninsured over that same period, a modest improvement.
The final House health care bill would cause 14 million more people to be uninsured by 2018.
And overall, by 2026, an estimated 51 million people under the age of 65 wouldn’t have health insurance, compared with the 28 million who would be uninsured if Obamacare remained.
49 million would be uninsured under the Senate bill, a slight improvement.
Still, Monday’s scoring will likely be headache-inducing for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who wants senators to vote on the bill this week, before leaving town for the Fourth of July holiday.
The Senate is split 52-48 Republicans-to-Democrats, with GOP Vice President Mike Pence available to come break a tie.
However, there are five GOP senators who are opposing the bill in its current form.
They include conservative Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Rand Paul, R-Ky., Mike Lee, R-Utah and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., along with the more moderate Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who’s up for re-election in 2018, out of a state that saw Democratic gains in 2016, despite a Republican sweep across the country.
‘I think it’s a lot to digest in one week,’ Paul said on CNN Monday, worrying that lawmakers didn’t have enough time to read the bill and digest what the CBO says.
Paul also revealed on CNN that Senate leadership hasn’t been negotiating with his office, advising the White House that aides there tell McConnell’s team that it needs to work with the hold-outs if it wants their support.
Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Trump had personally talked to Paul, Johnson and Cruz, among others.
In addition, three other Republican senators are expressing concerns.
Not surprisingly one of them is Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, considered the most moderate voice of the chamber.
She’s joined by another moderate, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D.
Zero Democrats are on board with the plan.
The most moderate Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., saw the estimate and said he continued to be against the legislation.
‘I have said from the beginning that I want to be a partner in making healthcare more affordable and accessible for our state,’ Manchin said. ‘I stand ready to work with anyone to do that, but this bill makes things worse not better, and I cannot support it.’
The White House, however, sounded optimistic before the CBO score came out.
‘He’s very pleased with the developments that have come,’ Press Secretary Sean Spicer said from the podium today, during an off-camera briefing. ‘He’s been impressed with the work,’ Spicer said of Trump.
‘He, obviously, as you mentioned, wants a bill that has heart. He wants a bill that does what it’s supposed to do. When you look at what happened with Obamacare, he wants to make sure we think through this,’ Spicer added.
The press secretary confirmed that Trump had spoken with a number of senators over the weekend, though was unable to say whether the president had crossed the aisle and talked to Democrats, and downplayed any damage the CBO score could do to the effort.
‘I think we’ve addressed CBO scores in the past,’ Spicer said.
The White House has previously cast doubt on the CBO’s ability to project the number of insured Americans.
‘We feel very confident with where the bill is and he’s going to continue to listen to senators who have ideas about how to strengthen it, but it’s going to follow the same plan as we have,’ Spicer said.
Later, when Trump appeared in the Rose Garden alongside India’s Prime Minister Modi, he ignored reporters’ questions on the estimate.
Referring to the 22 million, Trump was asked if the Senate bill was ‘mean,’ an adjective he applied to the House bill, which left 23 million more uninsured.
‘Does the Senate bill have enough heart? Are you reversing your promise not to cut Medicaid, sir,’ other reporters chimed in.
The president didn’t answer.