Budget Office: Senate Health Bill Adds 22 Million Uninsured

WASHINGTON (KDKA/AP) — The Senate Republican health care bill would leave 22 million more Americans uninsured in 2026 than under President Barack Obama’s health care law, the Congressional Budget Office estimated Monday, in a blow to GOP leaders’ hopes of pushing the plan through the chamber this week.

The CBO coverage estimates pose yet another problem for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who unveiled the legislation last Thursday. By Friday afternoon, he was facing public statements of opposition from five GOP senators — three more defections than he can afford and still win approval for the legislation over united Democratic opposition. Others have expressed concerns.

The 22 million additional people without coverage under the Senate proposal is just a hair better than the 23 million who’d be left without insurance under the measure the House approved last month, the budget office has estimated. President Donald Trump has called the House version “mean” and called on Senate Republicans to approve legislation with more “heart.”

Of the 22 million, 15 million of them would have no insurance next year, the nonpartisan budget office said. That could be a particular concern to Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who faces perhaps the toughest 2018 re-election race of any Senate Republican and who’s said he can’t support a health care package that cuts Medicaid like the GOP plan and takes coverage from “tens of millions of Americans and tens of thousands of Nevadans.”

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and several other moderate GOP senators have also expressed concerns about the measure’s impact on coverage. On the other hand, four conservatives have said they oppose the current version of the bill for not doing enough to reduce premiums.

But Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, from Pennsylvania, says he fully supports the bill. He released this statement:

Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, of Pennsylvania, does not.

He released this statement:

“Obscene. Unconscionable. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has just confirmed that Pennsylvania families will pay higher costs for less care with fewer protections under the Senate Republican health care scheme in order to lavish the wealthiest with tax cuts. Many wealthy people who would receive these tax cuts don’t want them if it means a child loses Medicaid protections. Despite the deliberately misleading statements from the backers of this legislation, it is now clearer than ever that this proposed plan would decimate Medicaid, impose an age tax and hike premiums, while risking job loss at rural hospitals. And for those families struggling with the opioid crisis, this bill pulls the rug right out from under them.

The CBO has exposed this shameful piece of legislation for what it is: an unprecedented selling out of our middle class families, children, seniors and individual with disabilities. It’s time for the Administration and congressional Republicans to reverse course and work in a bipartisan way to make health care more affordable.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, is also speaking out against the bill.

A statement released from his office reads in part:

“This bill will raise costs for Pennsylvanians, including both higher premiums and higher deductibles, who wish to maintain the same level of coverage now. Those over 50 would now be charged an age tax of five times more just for the same coverage. Even Pennsylvanians with employer coverage could lose coverage and protections for essential health services, pre-existing conditions and the ban on lifetime or annual limits will be at risk. Patient advocates like AARP and the American Medical Association, and now the CBO, have confirmed that this will be our new, unfortunate reality.”

“This bill is simply not solving any of the problems that bipartisan governors know exist in our health care system. It is time for Washington to start a process that’s bipartisan, open and fixes the problems in our health care system.”

The budget office report said it believes the Senate bill “would increase the number of uninsured people substantially. The increase would be disproportionately larger among older people with lower income” — especially those between 50 and 64 and with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty level, or around $30,300 for a single person. Those ages are just shy of when people begin qualifying for Medicare coverage.

Earlier Monday, Republican leaders added a penalty to their bill for people who’ve had at least a 63-day gap in coverage during the past year. Under that proposal, if they then buy insurance, they would face a six-month delay before it takes effect. The budget office said its estimate included the impact of that addition.

The change was aimed at helping insurance companies and the insurance market by discouraging healthy people from waiting to buy a policy until they get sick. Insurers need healthy customers who are inexpensive to cover to help pay the costs of people with medical conditions that are costly to treat.

The Senate bill would roll back much of Obama’s health care overhaul. His statute pressures people to buy insurance by imposing a tax penalty on those who don’t, but the Republican legislation would repeal that penalty, effectively erasing Obama’s so-called individual mandate.

The House approved its legislation in May. It would require insurers to boost premiums by 30 percent for those whose coverage lapsed.

Join The Conversation On The KDKA Facebook Page
Stay Up To Date, Follow KDKA On Twitter

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

More From CBS Pittsburgh

Play It
Get The All New CBS Local App
KDKA Weather App

Watch & Listen LIVE