The Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday released its long-awaited score of the American Health Care Act, and the result remained striking for Americans who rely on Medicaid and other government programs to pay for health care.
In the nonpartisan office’s estimation, 23 million Americans would lose health insurance by 2026 were the House bill, which effectively repeals the Affordable Care Act, to become law — driven primarily by severe cuts to Medicaid funding and key Obamacare subsidies. Those two factors would also lead to an overall budget deficit reduction of $119 billion through 2026, with a more than $1.1 trillion decline in spending offset by a $992 billion drop in revenues associated with the ACA.
Average insurance premiums would also decrease, which isn’t necessarily good news.
“Average premiums for insurance purchased individually — that is, non-group insurance — would be lower in part because the insurance, on average, would pay for a smaller proportion of health care costs,” the CBO wrote.
The CBO’s report closely mirrors its analysis of the original AHCA bill, which the Republican majority in the House pulled at the end of March due to a perceived lack of support. Like the version that eventually passed earlier this month, that bill also would have reduced both the deficit and the number of Americans with health insurance, but to a more extreme degree: According to the CBO, the bill now heading to the Senate would slash the deficit by $32 billion less than the original bill, and keep an additional one million American insured.
The other AHCA — the American Health Care Association — expressed cautious optimism about the bill’s progress from proposal to House reality.
“As Congress considers the best way to address health care reform and balances competing priorities, there should be no question that we must fulfill our obligation to seniors and individuals with disabilities,” AHCA president and CEO Mark Parkinson said in a statement e-mailed to SNN.
“The final House bill improved provisions for the populations we serve and we hope the Senate will continue to build upon these protections and fulfill the promise of Medicaid for our vulnerable seniors,” said Parkinson, who also helms the affiliated National Center for Assisted Living. “For the thousands of people across the country who rely on Medicaid for long term care, there are no other viable options to pay for their care.”
Medicaid remains the largest payer for skilled nursing care in the United States. The AHCA would slash Medicaid funding by more than $800 billion over the next 10 years, and the Trump administration called for an extra $600 billion in Medicaid cuts in its budget proposal. As many have pointed out, neither of those outcomes is assured: The president’s proposed budget remains simply a blueprint that top Senate Republicans John Cornyn and John McCain separately deemed “dead on arrival,” while the health care bill’s effects similarly faced withering criticism from both the left and right.
Sen. Dean Heller, a Nevada Republican, released a statement in the wake of the CBO’s report, claiming that the AHCA “does not do enough to address Nevada’s Medicaid population or protect Nevadans with preexisting conditions,” Politico reported.
Heller’s Republican colleague from Louisiana, Sen. Bill Cassidy, said Congress must pass health care reform that passes “the Jimmy Kimmel Test,” referencing the ABC late-night host’s heartfelt speech about how health coverage helped save his newborn child’s life.
“The AHCA does not. I am working with Senate colleagues to do so,” Cassidy said in a statement.
Reaction on the other side of the aisle was even more blunt.
“No wonder the Republicans were afraid of the CBO analysis,” Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said in a statement. “Trumpcare 2.0 will still force millions of Americans to lose their health insurance, raise premiums, and put critical health care services beyond the reach of hard-working families.”
Written by Alex Spanko