Health and Science

Obamacare architect weighs in on the Senate's replacement efforts

Key Points
  • Obamacare architect Ezekiel Emanuel says Republicans have created uncertainty for insurance providers
  • Republicans and Democrats could have achieved consensus on making health care more affordable, he says
Reform not same as throwing 23 million people off of insurance, says Obamacare architecht

Republicans are responsible for creating much of the uncertainty that have made insurance companies nervous and caused them to either exit the market or raise premiums, the architect of the Affordable Care Act, Ezekiel Emanuel, claimed Thursday.

U.S. Senate Republicans are expected to unveil the text of their still-secret draft health care bill to replace Obamacare on Thursday — which could look quite like an earlier version from the House. That iteration passed by a narrow margin and was projected to lead to 23 million more uninsured people by 2026 by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Public opposition to the House bill is also growing — even among Republicans.

"The problem is a lot of this uncertainty makes insurance companies nervous. When insurance companies are nervous, they do two things: they exit markets and they raise premiums. That's exactly what you're seeing," Emanuel told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

Data shows average premiums for individual coverage under Obamacare have jumped 39 percent since 2014, while family plans have risen 49 percent.

He added, "That uncertainty was created by the Republicans that didn't exist under President Obama. (They) are going to hold the bag for a lot of people losing insurance and they will blame this administration."

Emanuel acknowledged that reforms to Obamacare were necessary in order to make it work better. He explained market stability could be achieved by enforcing the mandate, giving reinsurance and risk orders back to the insurance companies and guaranteeing people get subsidies for cost sharing. That, along with an advertising campaign targeted at young people, could go a long way to stabilizing the market, he said.

I don't endorse health bill outline: Obamacare architect

"But reform is different than repeal. And it's much different than throwing 23 million people off of insurance and off of Medicaid as the Republican plan appears to be doing," he added.

President Donald Trump, in a meeting last week with Republican senators, called the House bill "mean" and earlier this week, in the company of tech CEOs, he said the Senate bill needed to have more "heart."

Emanuel said affordability and cost control remain big issues in the American health care system, where Republicans and Democrats could have reached a consensus. "This (Republican-led) bill does nothing about affordability — and that's the shock."

One area that could be of mutual agreement, he said, is controlling drug prices.

"The president is very agitated about this and yet the Republicans didn't begin there, which is very, very surprising. It was a place where we could've gotten a landmark agreement and a lot of consensus."

— CNBC's Dan Mangan contributed to this report.