If Republicans’ attempts to roll back Obamacare were a chicken crossing the road, it would be, like, one-quarter of its way across. And Wednesday is a big day for Republicans’
chicken health-care bill to reach the halfway point.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office is expected to release its estimate on the financial and real-life impact of Republicans’ attempt to roll back Obamacare. House Republicans took the unusual step earlier this month of passing their version of this legislation without knowing how many people could lose/gain health insurance or how much it would cost them and the federal government.
Now, they could pay a political and procedural price for that. When the CBO estimated the impact of a different version of Republicans’ bill in March, the bill lost so much support among House Republicans that leaders canceled a high-profile vote.
This time, Senate Republicans will have to decide whether to tweak the House’s version or throw it in the trash after a CBO estimate.
If the Senate does its own thing, that could make getting a bill to President Trump’s desk a thousand times more difficult, since the Senate and House will have to re-vote on any changes the other chamber makes.
The CBO is an important political tool for both sides in the health-care debate, since it puts real numbers to a complicated bill. Here are the three numbers to watch out for:
That’s how many fewer people would be insured under Republicans’ health-care plan than are insured by Obamacare now, according to the CBO’s March estimate.
Watch for: Whether this number is higher or lower now that this new bill allows states to opt out of key parts of Obamacare.
This 24 million number is a big reason the first bill never came up for a vote in the House: Moderate Republicans couldn’t vote for a bill that meant more people would lose their insurance than gained it under Obamacare (about 20 million).
Some of those people would willingly lose their insurance, the CBO said, because they would no longer be required by law to have health insurance. (A mandate to have health insurance or else pay taxes is the linchpin of Obamacare.) Others, though, would unwillingly lose their insurance because they wouldn’t be able to afford it.
Which brings us to our next number to watch for:
That’s the CBO’s first estimate of how much insurance premiums would rise for elderly, poor people over the next decade if Republicans’ first version of this bill became law. In a report filled with brutal numbers for Republicans, this may have been the most brutal, The Fix’s Aaron Blake noted at the time.
For one thing, its effects are easily digestible: Republicans said their bill will make health insurance cheaper. Well, here, Democrats said, is an official estimate showing the exact opposite: Right now, 64-year-olds making $26,500 a year are on track to pay $1,700 in 2026. Under the Republicans’ bill, they would pay $14,600.
Watch for: Whether Republicans’ new amendment, which lets states choose to allow insurers to jack up the prices for preexisting conditions, makes this better — or, as health-care experts estimate, worse.
The CBO did estimate that premiums overall will begin to drop by 2020 but that the savings would mostly be for young, healthy people. In general, this bill would make health insurance more expensive for older, sicker people, which has been a major Democratic talking point ever since.
That’s how much this health-care bill needs to reduce the deficit by to make it even be considered by the Senate.
The whole purpose of this report is to make sure that the bill complies with a requirement — given by Congress to Congress — to reduce the federal deficit by $2 billion over the next decade. That’s because Republicans are attempting to get this bill through Congress without any Democratic votes, so they have to use a budgetary rule that allows them to avoid a Senate Democratic filibuster. If the math whizzes at the CBO calculate that the House bill falls short of that goal, the bill can’t move on to the Senate, and House Republicans will have to start over.
Watch for: This is the one number Republicans may not have to worry about. The CBO reported their first bill would reduce the deficit by $337 billion over the next decade — 168 percent more than Republicans technically need to reduce the deficit by.
The real question is whether a deficit reduction, in the context of more people uninsured and higher premiums for some vulnerable Americans, is enough to persuade the Senate to take up their version of the legislation. TBD, but at least now you know what to watch for.