Just after the Congressional Budget Office said it estimates that under the Republican health-care bill 14 million Americans will lose their health insurance next year, and 24 million will lose their coverage by the end of the decade, the White House said it disagrees “strenuously” with that analysis.
“We believe that our plan will cover more individuals at a lower cost and give them the choices that they want for the coverage that they want for themselves and for their families, not that the government forces them to buy,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price explained on Monday.
Hours later, the White House’s internal analysis of the American Health Care Act leaked. It confirms that the Trump administration disagrees with the CBO’s findings — but not because AHCA will “cover more individuals.” The executive branch estimates that 26 million people would lose coverage within the next decade — more than the CBO’s estimate of 24 million. Politico reports:
The [White House] analysis found that under the American Health Care Act the coverage losses would include 17 million for Medicaid, six million in the individual market and three million in employer-based plans.
A total of 54 million individuals would be uninsured in 2026 under the GOP plan, according to the White House analysis. That’s nearly double the number projected under current law.
So, in light of these shockingly bad estimates, what does the White House intend to do? According to a separate Politico report, the plan is to make people lose coverage even sooner:
One senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions, said the White House is weighing ideas for a “significant” manager’s amendment to the bill before it hits the House floor next week. Officials would like the changes — which would likely be offered in the House Rules Committee — to appease some conservatives.
Possible modifications being considered include phasing out the Medicaid expansion quicker, from the current Dec. 31, 2019 date to the beginning of 2018, and moving changes supposed to occur in the insurance market from 2020 to 2018.
“I think the changes that the conservatives want are more and more likely,” said a second White House official.
Republicans can only afford to lose 21 votes in the House and two in the Senate. Implementing AHCA as soon as possible may appease the roughly 40 members of the House Freedom Caucus who are threatening to kill the bill. But that would also alienate more moderate Republicans, and those who come from states that took the Medicaid expansion.
White House officials tell Politico that they believe the changes are necessary to get past the initial hurdle of passage in the House. They’re aware that moving to the right makes the legislation even less likely to get through the Senate, but one person said they’d cross that bridge “when we get to it.”
If the aim is to fulfill President Trump’s promise to provide “better health care for more people at a lesser cost,” it doesn’t make sense to push legislation that the White House believes will be even worse than expected — and in an election year, no less.
But if the aim is fulfill White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s long-stated goal of costing Paul Ryan his speakership, making his unpopular health bill more likely to fail is a solid plan. Breitbart appears to be throwing everything it has at the speaker and “Ryancare,” but surely Bannon himself would never do that to his new texting buddy.