Trump health chief blasts CBO score

Keren Carrion

President Trump’s healthcare chief slammed the CBO score of the GOP healthcare bill as “wrong again” minutes after its release on Wednesday, immediately dismissing the conclusion that it would substantially raise premiums for sick people.

“The CBO was wrong when they analyzed ObamaCare’s effect on cost and coverage, and they are wrong again,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said in a statement.

“In reality, Americans are paying more for fewer healthcare choices because of Obamacare, and that’s why the Trump Administration is committed to reforming healthcare.”

In contrast, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was quick to defend the score, which he said confirmed “that the American Health Care Act achieves our mission: lowering premiums and lowering the deficit. It is another positive step toward keeping our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

{mosads}The score concluded that the GOP health bill would result in 23 million fewer people with health insurance over 10 years, while reducing the deficit by $119 billion over the same period.

The CBO also found that an amendment allowing states to waive certain regulations would mean premiums would be somewhat lower than in the previous version of the bill, and that slightly more people would get coverage.

The CBO concluded that a controversial last-minute amendment from Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) would cause people with pre-existing health conditions to lose coverage, contrary to what Republicans have been promising since the bill was passed.

Healthcare providers said the latest CBO score reinforces why they have been opposed to the House legislation since the start.

“Today’s estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office show that last-minute changes to the AHCA made by the House offered no real improvements,” American Medical Association president Andrew Gurman said.

American Hospital Association President Rick Pollack urged the Senate to change the legislation to make sure more people get covered.

“We cannot support legislation that the CBO clearly indicates would jeopardize that coverage for millions of Americans,” Pollack said.

The MacArthur language allows states to waive rules governing what an insurance plan must cover, and allows states to let insurers charge people more based on their health.

In states that waived rules and allowed insurers to charge more, some people with pre-existing conditions would lose coverage because they could not afford the premiums, the CBO said. It concluded additional funding to mitigate that effect would not be enough.

The CBO projected that one-sixth of the U.S. population would live in states that accept the new waivers for ObamaCare regulations. People with pre-existing conditions in those states would have difficulty affording coverage, the CBO said.

“Over time, less healthy individuals (including those with preexisting or newly acquired medical conditions) would be unable to purchase comprehensive coverage with premiums close to those under current law and might not be able to purchase coverage at all,” CBO said.

Price and other Republicans also slammed the CBO in March, when the agency released its initial analysis of the American Healthcare Act. But in attacking the official nonpartisan congressional scorekeeping agency, Price did not mention the fact that he helped handpick its director while serving in the House.

Keith Hall became head of the CBO in 2015, and prior to that served in the George W. Bush administration. 

Updated 7:25 p.m. 

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