President Barack Obama told a whopper when he was pitching his health care reform bill. “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it,” was so far off the mark that PolitiFact designated it its Lie of the Year for 2013.
Now we have a new contender for 2017, also spawned from Obamacare: President Donald Trump’s promise that no Americans would lose coverage in the Republicans’ repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” he told the Washington Post. As a candidate, he also said “there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid.”
Now we know those two statements are nowhere close to true. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Monday issued its assessment of the American Health Care Act, as the Republicans’ Obamacare replacement is known. Its numbers were an “eye-popper,” as Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, put it: 24 million more people without health insurance compared with Obamacare, and enormous cuts to Medicaid. Those and other findings should render this bill dead immediately.
Obamacare is far from perfect, so we’re eager to see improvements in America’s health care system. Let’s look at the CBO’s findings, good and bad, about the Republican replacement, and then decide if it’s the way to go.
▪ The number of people without health insurance would almost double, from 28 million to 52 million, by 2026 under the AHCA compared to if Obamacare remained in effect. The percentage of people under age 65 without coverage would shoot from 10 percent to 19 percent, erasing all the gains of the past several years.
▪ The rising uninsured number would not be driven by people choosing not to purchase coverage. About 14 million would lose coverage from Medicaid cuts (many of them elderly and/or disabled); 7 million would lose coverage from employers dropping it and just 2 million would be uncovered because they no longer buy it on the individual market.
▪ Overall, premiums a decade from now would be an average of 10 percent lower than they would be under Obamacare. Young people’s costs would drop, however, while older people’s would skyrocket. A 21-year-old making $26,500 would have typical annual premiums of $1,450 in 2026, compared with $1,700 under current law. But a 64-year-old making that amount would see his costs balloon from $1,700 under current law to $14,600 under the GOP plan.
▪ The Republican plan would reduce deficits by $337 billion over 10 years compared with keeping Obamacare. For context, the CBO projects total federal deficits over that time period to total around $9 trillion.
▪ With Planned Parenthood funding slashed, pregnancy rates would rise. Those pregnancies and the resulting babies would drive higher Medicaid spending, offsetting some of the spending cuts there.
To summarize: Republicans are proposing a small drop in federal deficits compared to continuing with Obamacare, lower taxes for the wealthy and lower premiums for young people in return for doubling the number of uninsured, accepting lesser coverage and hammering the elderly and poor.
House Speaker Paul Ryan said he’s not looking “to win some coverage beauty contest” or “to show a pretty piece of paper that says we’re mandating great things for Americans.”
That’s good, because there’s little risk of him doing either with this plan.