Health and Science

CBO says new version of Senate Obamacare replacement would still increase uninsured by 22 million

Key Points
  • The new version of the bill comes as GOP leaders struggle to pass health-care reform legislation.
  • President Donald Trump earlier this week called for a full repeal of Obamacare.
  • A full repeal of Obamacare would lead to 32 million more uninsured Americans, a new report has found.
GOP throws another curveball into Obamacare repeal debate with yet another version of Senate health bill

Even an Obamacare plan won't cover this health-care headache.

Senate Republicans on Thursday threw a curveball into the already complicated Obamacare repeal game when they introduced yet another amendment to their bill to replace the Affordable Care Act.

The new version, posted on a Senate website, strips out the so-called Cruz amendment that would allow insurers to sell much-less-generous, and hence less expensive, individual health plans.

But it is not clear that that amendment, crafted by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, will remain out of the bill as Senate Republican leaders continue to struggle for a vote on legislation that would undo much or all of Obamacare.

The Congressional Budget Office, in an analysis of the new version of the bill, estimated Thursday that it would lead to 22 million more Americans lacking health insurance by 2026 than would be uninsured if Obamacare remained in its current form. Fifteen million more people would become uninsured by next year, and then there would be 19 million more uninsured by 2020, CBO said.

CBO releases score for new Senate health-care bill

Those projections for the number of uninsured people are identical to estimates the CBO made for the first version of the bill, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, and come as GOP leaders in the Senate have become increasingly desperate to pass some kind of health-care reform.

The CBO also found similar effects from the new bill on insurance premiums, which are projected to end up in 2020 being 30 percent lower for individual health plans than would be the case under current Obamacare law.

However, as in the original bill, the insurance plans expected to be sold then would cover a smaller share of the total cost of health benefits than under Obamacare now.

And before 2020, average premiums for key Obamacare plans are expected next year to spike 20 percent higher than under the current law, and 10 percent higher in 2019 if the bill is passed into law.

However, the new version is projected to lead to $420 billion in savings to the federal budget deficit, almost $100 billion more in savings than estimated by the CBO for the first bill.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has so far failed in his effort to corral the 50 votes necessary to pass a health-care reform bill, of any kind.

McConnell cannot even muster enough Republican senators to support a procedural motion that would allow the bill to head toward a final vote. But he nonetheless plans to try to do so next week.

The CBO's report is the second projection related to Obamacare released by the nonpartisan agency within a 24-hour period.

On Wednesday, the CBO issued a report that estimated the effects of another Senate bill, which would repeal most of Obamacare without immediately replacing it with a new health-care law.

That report said such a repeal by 2026 would increase the number of people without health insurance by 32 million people above the number that would be uninsured if the current law remained in place.

The repeal bill also would double insurance premiums in the individual plan market and leave up to three-quarters of the United States without an insurer selling such plans by 2026.

An earlier CBO analysis of an Obamacare replacement bill passed by the House found that 23 million more people would be uninsured if that bill became law.

The Protect Our Care Campaign, a leading Obamacare defense group, criticized Republicans for continuing to try to pass a new health-care law.

"It doesn't matter what version of health care repeal Republicans put forward, they've each proven to be completely devastating for the American people — cutting coverage, raising costs, gutting Medicaid and weakening protections — just to give the wealthy and drug and pharmaceutical companies another tax break," the campaign said in an emailed statement.

"The newly-released CBO report on their latest health care repeal attempt proves it yet again — 22 million people lose coverage, premiums go up 20 percent and 26 percent is gutted from Medicaid while giving $541 billion in tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations," the campaign said.

"They keep promising it will get better but there is no way to fix repeal. It is always devastating," the group said.

President Donald Trump earlier in the week called for a full repeal of Obamacare.

On Wednesday, Trump pushed Senate Republicans to reach agreement on health-care legislation before leaving Washington for the August recess.

"We have to stay here. We shouldn't leave town, and we should hammer this out and get it done," Trump said.

GOP throws another curveball into Obamacare repeal debate with yet another version of Senate health bill