As he attempts to close what has been an elusive deal among Republicans on a Senate bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, President Donald Trump continues to make bold promises about what that bill would do — promises that all available analysis suggests the bill will not keep.
Trump made a final-appeal speech on Monday, which was light on policy and heavy on pressuring Republican senators to vote for the bill when it's expected to come to the floor for a procedural vote on Tuesday. It included one section in which the president gave a small list of how health care would change should the Better Care Reconciliation Act become law.
Trump promised the new health care bill would "significantly lower premiums" and "stabilize the insurance market." He shared horror stories of families who had relied on the Affordable Care Act for coverage but ultimately liquidated a 401(k) retirement account in order to cover their large deductibles.
The truth, however, is that the Senate bill will not lower premiums for many people. For low-income Americans, in particular, premiums could rise by as much as 700 percent. Nonpartisan analysis from the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Senate bill would destabilizethe individual market. And those plans with large deductibles? They would become more common should the Senate bill become law.
Trump himself offered no proof for his claims: He was surrounded by supposed "victims of Obamacare," who had seen their premiums and deductibles rise under the health care law, but he did not explain how any of these families would be better off under the Republican plan.
What is true for Trump the president was true for Trump the candidate. On the campaign trail, he promised great things on health care — but endorsed policies that did not deliver. Trump repeatedly vowed, during the campaign, to create a health care plan that "covers everyone." His voters, many of whom rely on the Affordable Care Act for coverage, believed him.
The Senate bill is still fluid, but in every form under discussion right now it breaks that promise. If it were to become law, the Obamacare enrollees who believed Trump would be in for a rude surprise.
Premiums would rise for many under Senate plan
Trump claimed during his address that premiums would decline under the Senate health care plan. What he didn't explain was how that would happen: Overall premiums in the individual market would drop because coverage would become too expensive for low-income and older Americans to purchase.
The Senate health care bill eliminates the Medicaid expansion and greatly scales back the tax credits for middle-income Americans who purchase coverage in the individual market. It provides some help for those people to get private plans but not nearly as much as Obamacare currently does.
Decent health insurance, the Congressional Budget Office predicts, would become prohibitively expensive for low-income Americans. This is what the agency estimates (emphasis mine):
Under this legislation, starting in 2020, the premium for a silver plan would typically be a relatively high percentage of income for low-income people. The deductible for a plan with an actuarial value of 58 percent would be a significantly higher percentage of income — also making such a plan unattractive, but for a different reason. As a result,despite being eligible for premium tax credits, few low-income people would purchase any plan, CBO and JCT estimate.
If you want to understand how premiums would change under the Senate bill, it's helpful to flip to page 48 of that same report. It shows how premiums would change for an individual who earns $26,500; I've circled some of the key numbers.
You can see that across the board, premiums would go up for Americans with low to moderate incomes. People who purchased bronze-level plans would see their premiums go up a little. People who purchased silver-level plans would see their premiums go up a lot.
What is harder to see is that the premiums are up while the quality of the health insurance being purchased is going down. Those numbers in the gray boxes represent actuarial value, which measures how much of its members' costs, on average, a health plan covers. You can see that the actuarial value drops as premiums rise.
This, in simple terms, means enrollees will be asked to pay higher premiums and in return get coverage with higher deductibles and copayments.
Who gets lower premiums under the Better Care Reconciliation Act? The CBO estimates those "winners" fall into two categories. The first is low-income Americans who live in states that did not expand Medicaid, and would for the first time qualify for subsidies to purchase insurance (but again, the CBO thinks these subsidies wouldn't be enough for those people to deem coverage affordable). The second is high-income young adults, who benefit from new rules allowing insurers to charge them lower premiums (and raise monthly payments for older enrollees).