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Congress’ analyst: 14 million lose coverage under GOP health bill

WASHINGTON –Nonpartisan analysts project that 14 million people would lose coverage next year under the House bill dismantling former President Barack Obama’s health care law. The estimate is a blow to Republicans.

Monday’s estimate by the Congressional Budget Office says the number of uninsured would grow to 24 million by 2026.

The projections give fuel to opponents who warn the measure would toss millions of voters off insurance plans. Criticism has come from Democrats, Republicans from states that benefit from Obama’s law and many corners of the health-care industry.

President Donald Trump backs the GOP plan.

Republican leaders have said their aim is to lower health care costs. They say coverage statistics are misleading because many people covered under Obama’s law have high out-of-pocket costs that make health care unaffordable.

Earlier Monday Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole sent a news release titled “Healthcare for Every American” in which is said this bill is in its early stages of moving through committees and will evolve over that time.

“In the next week, I’ll have the chance to evaluate and consider this legislation when it will be heard by the Budget Committee on which I serve. Later, it will seek parliamentary approval from the Rules Committee, on which I also serve.,” said Cole. “I am sure that as it moves through the committee process this replacement will be refined and improved. But even in its beginning stages, this legislation is an improvement over Obamacare.”

Prominent conservatives on Capitol Hill, for example, have argued that the bill doesn’t go far enough, labeling it “Obamacare Lite.” One element of the legislation that has drawn fierce scorn is the refundable tax credits, which conservative Republicans say amounts to an entitlement program.

Moderate Republicans are also uneasy, particularly when it comes to the proposal’s impact on Medicaid expansion. Thirty-one states — including 16 with Republican governors — elected to expand Medicaid under Obamacare and have found it to be a successful way of insuring low-income adults at little cost to their states.

The House GOP bill proposes scrapping the enhanced federal funding for Medicaid expansion in 2020 and overhauls the entire program so that states receive a fixed amount of money per enrollee.

Republicans downplaying the report

In the lead up to the CBO score, Republicans have preemptively downplayed its significance.

“The one thing I’m certain will happen is CBO will say, ‘Well, gosh, not as many people will get coverage.’ You know why? Because this isn’t a government mandate,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said on CBS over the weekend. “So there’s no way we can compete with, on paper, a government mandate with coverage.”

More important than the CBO’s prediction of how many people would be covered under the bill, Ryan added, is the goal of lowering the cost of care by expanding choice and competition.

One House GOP aide put it this way: “They’re saying people are losing coverage but in reality, these people are making a choice,” the aide said. “We’re not ripping coverage away.”

White House spokesman Sean Spicer even went as far as to question the group’s accuracy.

“If you’re looking to the CBO for accuracy, you’re looking in the wrong place,” Spicer told reporters last week.

Republican backers of the bill are also stressing that the CBO score won’t take into account the effects of other healthcare reforms that Republicans hope to enact, including through legislation and administrative actions from Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

One particular promise from Price could soon haunt Republicans.

“I firmly believe that nobody will be worse off financially in the process that we’re going through,” Price said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday.

Doug Elmendorf, former director of the Congressional Budget Office, said on CNN on Monday that Price’s claim was “absurd.”

“This legislation will cut subsidies substantially; millions of people will lose health insurance,” Elmendorf said. “But certainly people will be worse off.”