Budget office set to release report on House GOP health bill

Budget office set to release report on House GOP health bill

The Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday the GOP's revised effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act will reduce the federal deficit by $119 billion and lower premium costs, but result in a loss of coverage for 23 million people over the course of the next decade.

The report also shed some light into how the House GOP bill, titled the American Health Care Act, would change the nation's individual health insurance market.

The fate of the bill rests in part on this score, as House Republicans passed their most recent version of the bill without waiting for the CBO to report the bill's estimated price tag.

Republican leadership aides say it's unlikely the bill won't meet the Senate requirements. The previous CBO analysis had predicted the draft bill would leave 24 million more people without health insurance than Obamacare would cover.

The most important aspect of the bill for Republicans will come in how the CBO scores the AHCA's potential effect on the federal deficit.

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The legislation that ultimately passed would allow states to waive two key Obamacare protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

The biggest changes made to the bill took the form of the MacArthur and Upton Amendments, credited with garnering the support of conservative lawmakers belonging to the House Freedom Caucus.

These last-minute amendments would divide the market into three, with each having very different outcomes in terms of coverage and premiums, the CBO found.

Democrats have criticized Republicans for pushing people off coverage. That could lead more consumers to buy policies, many of whom would be eligible for federal government tax credits available under the AHCA.

The GOP legislation would steer people with costly medical conditions - and who haven't maintained continuous individual coverage - into the high-risk pools in order to lower premiums for others.

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The waivers available to states under the bill include opting out of the ACA's Essential Health Benefits, which mandate the 10 broad coverage areas insurers must offer, as well as aspects of its "community ratings" standards that prevent insurers from hiking premiums based on health states.

Another change would allow states to decide whether to require insurers to cover health benefits such as maternity care and prescription drugs that are mandatory under current law.

The Senate's working group on healthcare also met with representatives from Blue Cross Blue Shield Tuesday to get payer input on its version of the reform bill, according to another article from The Hill. All in all, 51 million people under the age of 65 would be without coverage by 2026, including those now uninsured. One-sixth of the population would live in states that would seek to make more drastic changes to the regulations, the CBO said, which would prompt large premium variations among consumers that the CBO did not have any average estimate for.

"While I am in favor of repealing Obamacare, I am opposed to the American Health Care Act in its current form", Republican Senator Dean Heller said in a statement.

In March, the budget office said the House legislation would increase premiums by an average 15 percent to 20 percent over the next two years, but push premiums 10 percent lower than they'd otherwise be by 2026.

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The CBO said premiums would fall for younger people and rise for older people in states that did not waive Obamacare requirements for an overall decline of about 4 percent. Over her 20-year-plus-career, she's spent more time outside the Beltway, both as a business reporter for The Hartford Courant and nine years in OH, mostly at the Dayton Daily News.

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