New estimates from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) place the number of people who would lose coverage under the American Health Care Act at 26 million by 2026. The OMB’s number is a full 2 million more than the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) original estimate of 24 million, and it’s left the Trump administration in a bit of an uncomfortable spot, Politico reports.
On Monday, the CBO released its analysis of the Republican attempt at replacing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The news that there would be a total of 54 million uninsured Americans in 10 years, with nearly 14 million losing coverage in the first year, was a blow for an already unpopular bill. Democrats were quick to point to these numbers as proof that the American Health Care Act was bad news. “Trumpcare would be a nightmare for the American people,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a press conference. On the other hand, a number of conservative Republicans felt that the new proposal did not go far enough to cut spending or entitlements, with some even calling it “Obamacare Lite” or “Obamacare 2.0.”
The White House was quick to dismiss the CBO’s numbers. According to BuzzFeed News, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said the projections of uninsured people rising are “virtually impossible.” He went on to say that “We disagree strenuously with the report.” So it was confusing when the White House’s own projections turned out even more concerning numbers. But, apparently, the OMB’s projection of 26 million people losing insurance isn’t actually the White House’s own analysis of the bill’s merits. “This is not an analysis of the bill in any way whatsoever,” White House Communications Director Michael Dubke told Politico. “This is OMB trying to project what CBO’s score will be using CBO’s methodology.”
Even before the CBO and OMB did the math, the Republican proposal was causing concern for many Americans. It eliminates the Obamacare mandate that everyone must have coverage or face a fine. It also charges older Americans more for their premiums, particularly those with lower incomes, and places the burden of Medicaid on the states by cutting down on the amount of federal money allotted to the program. Over the next decade, the new plan saves the government around $337 billion. But it’s seen opposition from numerous major healthcare groups, including the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and AARP. Are the government savings worth it if millions of people are hurt in the process?
President Trump has been largely silent on the American Health Care Act, though he has pledged to sign it if it crosses his desk. Getting it through Congress will be the next challenge for the bill’s advocates, including House Majority Leader Paul Ryan. Republicans have already begun pointing to the CBO’s inaccurate prediction about how many people would sign up for Obamacare to undermine the office’s importance. Still, many are concerned that the first major attempt to replace the 44th president’s signature policy initiative will fail. “It’s awful. It has to be a concern,” Sen. Bill Cassidy, of Lousiana, said of the budget office findings. “President Trump said he wanted as many people covered as under Obamacare.” Clearly, that’s not likely to happen.