Senate leaders rattled by CBO report on GOP's Obamacare replacement


A Monday report from the Congressional Budget Office estimated some 14 million more people would be uninsured under the House GOP's proposed American Health Care Act by 2018 than under current law -- an analysis causing disturbance among Senate Republicans and Democrats.

Democratic leadership was quick to point to the CBO report as evidence that the American Health Care Act will not cut it as a solid Affordable Care Act alternative.

"The bill's in trouble," Senate Minority Leader Schumer said during a Capitol press briefing on Tuesday. "It's in trouble in the House; it's in even more trouble in the Senate; and we Democrats are unified [in opposition]."

In a Monday evening statement, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the takeaway from the nonpartisan CBO report was clear in that "the American Health Care Act will ultimately lower premiums and increase access to care."

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While McConnell has previously said senators will have a chance to amend the AHCA before it is brought to the Senate floor for a vote, but Republicans nonetheless expressed concern with Monday's report in public fashion.

"At the end of the day we should pause and try to improve the product in the light of the CBO analysis rather than just rejecting it," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Tuesday.

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The CBO report's analysis that up to 24 million could go uninsured within a decade under "Trumpcare" primarily stems from the AHCA's changes to the Medicaid program. The current draft of the bill both caps sum federal spending for the Medicaid program and halts extra federal funding for Medicaid expansion. This, so the CBO report says, would result in millions more people going without coverage.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he'll wait to see the House's final draft they send to the Senate, but expressed that he was "always" worried about and focused on individuals losing their health care coverage.

"I'm concerned more ...[about] what the House bill will do to Arizona especially since they expanded Medicaid," he said.

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One element of the CBO score that some GOP leaders are touting is the notable estimate that the plan would result in a national budget deficit reduction of $337 billion over the course of a decade.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi doesn't buy that argument, though, and says these savings come "at the cost of many lives."

"They're saving $33 billion a year ... and are cutting off 26 million people from healthcare. It's just not a good investment," Pelosi said on Tuesday. "Of course you have savings if you cut off millions of people from access to care."

Schumer also used Senate Republican divides over the AHCA as a scapegoat to show the bill will not stand a chance at passing Congress.

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"There are, I think, more than 10 Republican senators, some very conservative, some more mainstream, who say they don't like the bill," Schumer said.

President Trump's Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said on Monday that the CBO report is "just not believable," and insisted that the Republican Obamacare replacement plan will insure a greater amount than those currently insured.

"It should prompt the House to slow down and reconsider certain provisions of the bill," Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said of the CBO report in a statement -- which also noted the report should be a "cause for alarm" among lawmakers. "We need to spend the time necessary to get this right."