Los Angeles Times: Revised GOP healthcare bill would still leave millions without insurance, new report concludes

By Noam N. Levey

July 20, 2017

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) may have as much as $99 billion more to spend to woo GOP senators wary of the party’s legislation rolling back the Affordable Care Act, according to a new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

But it remains unclear if that will be enough to preserve health insurance protections for millions of Americans who stand to be affected by huge cuts in healthcare assistance in the Republican healthcare legislation.

The GOP plan analyzed by the budget office — one of multiple versions now being considered — would still nearly double the number of people without health coverage over the next decade, pushing up the ranks of the uninsured by 22 million.

And it would increase costs for millions of sick and elderly Americans, the budget office estimates.

Those costs could soar even further under another provision of the bill that would allow insurers to offer slimmed-down health plans that don’t offer the basic set of health benefits — including prescription drugs, maternity care and mental health services — currently mandated by the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare,

That provision, sponsored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), was not in the new analysis because the budget office needs more time to analyze it.

The additional revenue is available because McConnell’s bill will now retain two taxes on high-income households that were included in Obamacare to help fund the coverage expansion.

That increases the amount the plan would reduce the deficit — from $321 billion in the original version of the Senate bill to $420 billion in the revised plan evaluated by the budget office .

McConnell may use that money to provide additional assistance to states that could be hit particularly hard by huge cuts in Medicaid assistance in the GOP plan.

But critics of the Senate Republican healthcare legislation noted that kind of limited aid could not replace the coverage system in the current healthcare law, which GOP plans call for cutting by more than $1 trillion over the next decade.

“The fact that Republican leaders are adding another fund — on top of their $45 billion to address the opioid epidemic, unrealistic promises of federal waivers to use Medicaid funds to help cover people losing Medicaid coverage under the bill, and inadequate, poorly designed stabilization funds — is more evidence that the Senate bill can’t be fixed,” noted Judy Solomon, vice president for health policy at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The Medicaid cuts in the Senate legislation have fueled opposition from a number of GOP senators, including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rob Portman of Ohio and Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia.

The new report comes a day after a separate budget office analysis concluded that McConnell’s other legislative option — to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act without a replacement — would leave 32 million more Americans without health insurance over the next decade.

That plan, which could come up for a vote next week, would also double healthcare insurance premiums by 2026, budget analysts concluded.