If Senate Republicans vote to repeal Obamacare before the end of the month, they’ll be flying blind — not knowing the impact their plan will have on insurance coverage or premium costs, budget scorekeepers said Monday.
The Congressional Budget Office will only have a bare-bones assessment of the latest GOP bill ready before Sept. 30, the deadline for Senate Republicans to pass health care legislation on a party-line vote.
The CBO analysis, which the agency aims to release early next week, will include some basic budgetary estimates required by reconciliation rules. But it will not have details about the practical implications of the bill, including how many people could lose coverage and the impact on insurance premiums. Those estimates will not be available “for at least several weeks,” CBO said.
Senate GOP leaders have been gauging support for the repeal plan — a block-grant proposal that would significantly shrink the federal role in health spending from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) — with hopes of bringing the bill to the floor next week.
The CBO’s announcement could make it harder for GOP leaders to convince wary Republicans like Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to support the plan.
McCain, Collins and Murkowski joined together to sink the GOP’s “skinny repeal” in late July. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has already come out against the Graham-Cassidy bill, dubbing it “Obamacare lite.” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can only lose two members of his conference and still pass the bill.
Alternatively, without a CBO report, Senate Republicans may be spared damaging headlines if CBO found the bill could cause millions more to be uninsured or fuel significantly higher costs for older enrollees.
Earlier in the day, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called for the CBO to do a full analysis of the Graham-Cassidy bill before it comes to the floor for a vote.
“A comprehensive CBO analysis is essential before Republicans force a hasty, dangerous vote on what is an extreme and destructive repeal bill,” Pelosi and Schumer wrote to CBO Director Keith Hall in a letter first obtained by POLITICO. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), ranking members of the Senate and House Budget committees, also signed on.
Republicans have until Sept. 30 to pass an Obamacare repeal using only party-line support under the fast-track process known as reconciliation. Senate GOP leaders are mulling bringing the Graham-Cassidy bill up for a vote next week, if they can get support within the conference. They have even enlisted President Donald Trump to help round up the 50 votes needed for passage.
Democratic leaders want to know how many people would lose insurance under the latest GOP plan, the impact on premiums for elderly enrollees and what would happen to Medicaid.
“Thus far, every version of Republicans’ effort to repeal and replace the ACA has meant higher health costs, millions of hard-working Americans pushed off coverage, and key protections gutted with devastating consequences for those with pre-existing conditions,” they wrote.
Right now the bill is still short of the 50 votes needed. If the Senate does pass legislation, the House would have to bring it up for a vote without changes.
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