Even if the American Health Care Act never passes, today’s House Republicans will bear the stigma of having proposed it.
Especially in our polarized time, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is an essential nonpartisan authority, ready to advise Congress and the American public of the likely economic impact of major legislation. CBO’s current director was selected by Speaker Ryan, now-HHS Secretary Price, and other Republicans in consultation with Democrats. CBO isn’t perfect, of course. But it continues a proud nonpartisan tradition that couldn’t be more important.
Two days ago, CBO released its official score the American Health Care Act, House Republicans’ proposed bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. CBO’s assessment was….brutal. If AHCA is enacted, CBO estimates that fourteen million more Americans will be uninsured by the end of next year, twenty-four million more uninsured by 2026.
That’s not the worst of it. Table 4 below is drawn from the CBO report. Health insurance premiums for low-income older workers would skyrocket under AHCA. By how much? The numbers are almost unbelievable.
On the nongroup market, annual net insurance premiums for a 64-year-old with an income of $26,500 would rise from $1,700 to $14,600. Yup, that an annual increase of $12,900, to buy a significantly less generous policy than is now available under ACA. For proponents of AHCA, that’s politically self-immolating.
AHCA also includes a huge tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. under which the top 400 wealthiest households alone receive tax cuts worth more than the premium tax credits provided in the twenty smallest states and the District of Columbia. Since this is the one thing Republicans agree on, I wish they would simply enact these on a party-line vote, add to the deficit, and call it a day.
In all my years of studying health policy, I have never seen a less professional, more shambolic performance than I have seen among Republicans seeking to pass AHCA. Even if this bill never passes, House Republicans will remain the people who proposed it. I just don’t understand their gameplan.