Senate GOP may not use CBO to score Cruz amendment

Senate Republicans may not use the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to score a version of Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) controversial amendment that was included in the updated Senate healthcare bill.

Instead, a member of Senate GOP leadership said analysis from the Trump administration — including the Health and Human Services Department and the White House Office of Management and Budget — might be used instead of the nonpartisan CBO.

That could provide a much more favorable analysis for the bill. The CBO found that the House bill repealing and replacing ObamaCare would lead to 23 million people being uninsured over a decade. Analysis from HHS found the number to be 13 million.

{mosads}“I think we’ll get other feedback from HHS, [the White House Office of Management and Budget] and others who also have models that can take into consideration” the impacts of the bill, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said Thursday.

The unusual move would be highly controversial and a major departure from using the CBO, which has been the traditional scorekeeper for legislation. Thune said CBO would probably take too long to analyze Cruz’s provision, since the language was only sent to CBO last week.

Conservatives have been attempting to discredit the CBO’s scoring methods, and the White House this week released its own internal analysis of the Medicaid portions of the Senate bill.

The provision in question would allow insurers to offer plans that do not meet ObamaCare requirements. It was included in the new bill in a key move to win the support of Cruz and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).

Moderates and many healthcare experts, however, worry that provision would spike insurance premiums for people who need more care remaining in the ObamaCare plans, when healthy people move to the cheaper, less generous options.

“This is a fairly new idea relative to what we’ve had in place so far, but I think on the surface it’s something that makes sense,” Thune said of the provision.

It’s unclear whether a score from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would comply with Senate rules.

The Senate is using budget-reconciliation rules to pass the bill, which prevents Democrats from filibustering it. The bill must reduce the deficit in order to be used with that process. 

Tags Congressional Budget Office John Thune Mike Lee ObamaCare Ted Cruz
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