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After CBO Report, Senate Republicans Aim for Better Health Care Bill

Senate Republicans maintained their plan to replace the Affordable Care Act would look nothing like the House bill assessed Wednesday.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump, flanked by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, and House Speaker Paul Ryan oapplaud in the Rose Garden of the White Houseon May 4 after the House pushed through a health care bill.Evan Vucci / AP

WASHINGTON — Republicans largely dismissed the results of a Congressional Budget Office report out Wednesday that said a House-passed health care bill would cause millions to lose insurance and potentially have the greatest impact on the least healthy Americans.

As House Republicans questioned the ability of the Congressional score-keepers, their fellow party members in the Senate vowed that their ideas to replace the Affordable Care Act would look nothing like the House bill assessed Wednesday.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Health Education and Labor Committee who is in part tasked with writing parts of the Senate's bill, used the score as another reason to push the American Health Care Act aside.

“It’s informative to know the estimated impact of the House health care bill, but the Senate is writing its own bill, which will receive its own score from the Congressional Budget Office before the Senate votes,” Alexander said in a statement.

Related: Health Care Bill Impact on Premiums, Uninsured, Pre-existing Conditions

Alexander is part of a group of 13 senators who are meeting regularly to discuss how the Senate should proceed on health care since the House narrowly passed the American Health Care Act earlier this month. The senators have previously admitted that it will not use the House bill but write its own, a process that is proving difficult as there are varying ideas on what a national health care system should look like.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a former insurance commissioner who was not invited to be part of the Senate health care working group, said that the CBO report underscores the problems with the House bill and emphasizes the need to work on a compromise that fixes the ACA and adopts some of the key principles Republicans would like to see.

“Unfortunately, the CBO estimates that 23 million Americans would lose insurance coverage over the next decade, and the impact would disproportionately affect older, low-income Americans,” Collins wrote. “I urge my colleagues to support the comprehensive ACA replacement plan Senator Cassidy and I introduced that will allow more Americans to obtain health insurance, preserve significant consumer protections, and help moderate the cost of health care.”

Related: Montana Republican Congressional Candidate Allegedly Assaults Reporter After CBO Question

The new assessment from the non-partisan CBO is the latest review of a Republican bill that's been near death several times due to the lack of support. But significant changes were made to appease the most conservative members of the House, resulting in accounting changes to the measure. Notable among the changes was a provision that would allow states to opt out of offering robust health insurance plans that provide services such as maternity care, mental health services and emergency care. It would also allow insurers in states that do opt out charge people with pre-existing conditions more for their health insurance.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who worked for months to pass the bill in the House, defended the findings of the new report.

"This CBO report again confirms that the American Health Care Act achieves our mission: lowering premiums and lowering the deficit," Ryan said in a statement.

While the report says that premiums will be lowered 10 to 30 percent over ten years for people who live in states that make changes to their individual insurance marketplace, the CBO says that people who are older or less healthy and live in states that accept waivers will see a dramatic increase in their health care costs. The most sick may be prevented from purchasing insurance entirely, the report says.

Most House Republicans, however, dismissed the validity of the CBO report, the same tactic members used after the last CBO report said 24 million Americans would lose insurance.

“They do the best they can with the data they have but they’ve been wildly wrong,” said Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee.

The analysis also found that by 2026, "an estimated 51 million people under age 65 would be uninsured, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under current law."

Democrats, united in their opposition to the House GOP legislation, condemned the bill again after the report was released.

Some immediately took to Twitter to voice their frustrations:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi slammed the bill as a "billionaire's tax cut disguised as a health care bill."

"Today's devastating CBO score hammers home Trumpcare's dire consequences for working families and seniors across the country," Pelosi said in the statement.

“This report ought to be the final nail in the coffin of Republican effort to sabotage our health care system,” said Sen. Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, who held a news conference shortly after the highly anticipated report was released.