The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released this past Wednesday its analysis of the American Health Care Act (AHCA), the health care bill passed by House Republicans. The House had been holding off on sending the bill to the Senate until the CBO score was released.
Lower Deficit, More Uninsured
Among the biggest takeaways was CBO’s estimate that if AHCA were to be enacted into law, 14 million more Americans would be uninsured in 2018 than under current law. This number was projected by CBO to reach 23 million in 2026, at which time CBO estimated that 51 million people under age 65 would be without health insurance.
One of the most important aspects of the bill to Republicans was the cost savings that would result from AHCA. Since passage of the bill would result in both a decrease in revenues and in costs, CBO estimated that passage of the bill would reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion over the next ten years.
This exceeds the amount of deficit reduction that was necessary for the Senate to consider the bill under reconciliation. Unfortunately, the Senate was never terribly keen on taking up the House bill in the first place, and CBO’s estimates don’t help things. The optics of passing a bill that would leave 23 million people unable to obtain health insurance are not good, so the Senate may end up going back to the drawing table and starting over with its own proposal.
The White House attacked CBO’s analysis, claiming that CBO is incapable of predicting with any accuracy how health care legislation will affect health care coverage. Indeed, CBO itself acknowledged the difficulties in trying to accurately predict AHCA’s effects due to the number of factors involved. And trying to predict anything ten years into the future is fraught with difficulties.
Collapse and Replace?
The deadlock over what to do about health care has made it more likely that “Collapse and Replace” becomes a viable strategy. With health care premiums having doubled since the passage of Obamacare and continuing to increase every year, and more and more insurers pulling out of insurance exchanges, the likelihood of Obamacare collapsing completely grows stronger every day.
If Congress is unable to come up with a legislative solution to fix the many problems facing Obamacare, the system will likely collapse due to its fundamental instability. While that would certainly put pressure on Congress to do something quickly to fix the health care system, any quick fix might suffer from the same defects that accompany any rush job. Even a “temporary” fix may end up becoming permanent, at which point future attempts to amend it will become much more difficult.
The American people certainly deserve a health care system that provides for their needs without driving them into the poorhouse. Let’s hope that Congress can fix the problems with the current health care system before it’s too late.