Health and Science

Democrats want to know how many people will lose insurance under new Obamacare repeal bill

Key Points
  • Democrats want the CBO to detail how the uninsured rate would increase, and premiums would change, under the Graham-Cassidy bill.
  • A Senate committee will hold a hearing on the bill on Sept. 26.
  • Republicans must pass any Obamacare repeal legislation by Sept. 30 in order to use reconciliation.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks with the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.
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Congressional Democratic leaders Monday asked the Congressional Budget Office to conduct an extensive analysis of a new bill that would repeal and replace major parts of Obamacare.

The request by top Democrats came amid concerns that Republicans will tell the CBO to provide just a partial analysis of the Graham-Cassidy bill without detailing the number of people likely to lose health insurance or its effects on premium prices.

The letter by the Democrats notes that every prior version of a Republican Obamacare replacement bill, according to CBO reports, "has meant higher health costs, millions of hard-working Americans pushed off coverage and key protections gutted with devastating consequences for those with pre-existing conditions."

"A comprehensive CBO analysis is essential before Republicans force a hasty, dangerous vote on what is an extreme and destructive repeal bill," the letter said.

"Members of Congress and the American people need to know the full consequences of Graham-Cassidy before any vote."

Also Monday, the Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee scheduled a hearing on Graham-Cassidy for Sept. 26.

That's just four days before Sept. 30. The clock runs out that day for any Obamacare repeal legislation being passed through the process known as reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority of votes for approval, as opposed to the filibuster-proof 60-vote threshold.

Democrats are worried that Graham-Cassidy will be rushed through the Republican-controlled Senate without a full airing of the legislation's provisions and potential effects.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., whose caucus has a 52-seat majority, late last week asked for the CBO to provide a quick analysis of the bill.

McConnell's request came shortly after the legislation's co-sponsor, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., claimed there were up to 49 senators who supported the bill.

That's just one short of the 50 senators that GOP leaders need to pass the bill, with a tiebreaking vote coming from fellow Republican Vice President Mike Pence.

In their letter to the CBO, the top Democrats wrote that there are three time periods that they want analyzed in depth: 2018 and 2019, after the bill would take effect; 2020 through 2026, and after 2027, "when funding is dramatically reduced."

The Democrats said they wanted to know how many people would lose health insurance under the bill, its effects on premiums and out-of-pocket cost, and whether people with pre-existing health conditions will be negatively effects.

The letter also asks the CBO to detail any cuts to Medicaid, the bill's effect on the stability of individual insurance marketplaces and what will happen "if states fail to reinvent their health systems" before the bill eliminates the current health law.

The letter was signed by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York and Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., ranking member of the House Budget Committee.

Also signing was Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent who sought the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

Graham-Cassidy, which was publicly released Wednesday, would eliminate Obamacare's requirement that most Americans have some kind of health insurance or face a fine, and also kill the mandate requiring most big employers to offer workers health insurance or pay a fine.

The bill would stop funding that now helps millions of middle- and low-income people buy individual health plans. And it would eliminate the expansion of Medicaid benefits to poor adults.

Graham-Cassidy instead would block grant funds to states so they could create their own health insurance system.

The liberal Center on Budget and Public Priorities said last week that provisions in the bill would "gut protections for people with pre-existing" health conditions.

Obamacare currently bars insurers from charging people with health problems higher premiums than healthier people. An analysis of Graham-Cassidy by the CBPP found that the bill would allow individual states to get rid of that restriction, opening the door for much steeper premiums and out-of-pocket health costs for millions of people.

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