Trump official slams CBO score: It's 'just not believable'

The Trump administration on Monday slammed a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimate that millions of people would become uninsured under the Republicans' plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. 

"We disagree strenuously with the report that was put out," Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told reporters at the White House. 

Price said the analysis released Monday afternoon does not take into account the entirety of the GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which he said would cover more people while lowering costs.

The long-awaited report has roiled the debate over the GOP’s bid to overhaul the healthcare system, which would include repealing many elements of the Affordable Care Act and creating a new tax credit to help people buy insurance.

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The plan, formally titled the American Health Care Act, is already facing resistance from conservatives who say the bill doesn't go far enough, while more moderate Republicans have expressed concern about the bill's defunding of Planned Parenthood and the rollback of expanded access to Medicaid.

The CBO, an independent scorekeeper for Congress, found that 14 million people would lose their insurance coverage by next year under the bill, with the number rising to 24 million over a decade.

Of the 14 million figure, Price said, "it's virtually impossible to have that number occur."

"It's just not believable, is what we would suggest," he added.

The health secretary said the nonpartisan budget office only looked at the House bill and not the two other parts of the administration’s three-phase healthcare plan, which includes regulatory changes and additional legislation.

The CBO does not “score” regulations, and neither the White House nor congressional Republicans have released legislative text detailing other changes to the healthcare system.

The Trump administration’s criticism is the culmination of its dayslong effort to question the work of the CBO, anticipating the estimate could dampen momentum behind their push to eliminate the Affordable Care Act.

“If you're looking to the CBO for accuracy, you're looking in the wrong place,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said last week.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the office shouldn’t even score the bill, suggesting on ABC News it’s something “they’re not capable of doing.”

Mulvaney was critical of the estimate on Monday, but he noted the CBO’s finding that the bill would lower insurance premiums by 10 percent over the next decade.

Still, the White House went much further in criticizing the scorekeeper than Republicans in Congress.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanGOP leaders pitch children's health funding in plan to avert shutdown Lawmakers see shutdown’s odds rising Fix what we’ve got and make Medicare right this year MORE (R-Wis.) pointed out the office’s analysis found that the bill would lower the budget deficit by $337 billion over the next decade while decreasing premium costs.

“I recognize and appreciate concerns about making sure people have access to coverage,” he said. “Our plan is not about forcing people to buy expensive, one-size-fits-all coverage. It is about giving people more choices and better access to a plan they want and can afford.”

The White House has faced criticism for its broadsides against the CBO, which has long been tasked with providing cost estimates on major legislation.

Trump himself cited the office on many occasions while criticizing ObamaCare.

"CBO now estimates that over 2.5M will lose jobs directly because of ObamaCare. REPEAL now before it is too late," Trump tweeted in April 2014.

"Congrats to Obama & Democrats. CBO has just announced that ObamaCare missed its uninsured target by half & program costs extra $700B+," he tweeted later that year.

“@CBO reports that under #Obamacare, premiums to increase 8% per yr from 2016-2018 and be nearly 60% higher in 2025,” Price tweeted last February.

Price, a former congressman from Georgia, was heavily involved in the selection of the current CBO director, Keith Hall, in 2015. At the time, he was chairman of the House Budget Committee.

Earlier Monday, Trump lamented the political cost Republicans could pay for repealing ObamaCare.

“I tell Tom Price and I tell Paul Ryan, I tell every one of 'em, I say the best thing you can do politically is wait a year because it's gonna blow itself off the map,” Trump said of the law. “But that's the wrong thing to do for the country. It's the wrong thing to do for our citizens.”

This story was updated at 6:04 p.m.