The White House went on the defensive Tuesday following the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that 24 million people could lose their health insurance by 2026 if lawmakers pass the Republicans’ American Health Care Act (AHCA).
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at Tuesday’s daily press briefing that while the agency has historically done a good job with its financial analyses, it has a spotty record on providing accurate estimates of insurance coverage. For example, he said, the CBO incorrectly projected that the Affordable Care Act would lead to 24 million more insured people by 2016, a number that Spicer claimed is off by about 13 million, or more than half.
The CBO’s projections on insurance coverage are “consistently wrong,” Spicer said, and its analysis fails to take into account second and third “prongs” to the Republicans’ health policy approach.
“When you get down to it, the Congressional Budget Office is there to measure the potential impact of programs on the federal budget. Its attempts to estimate coverage have been historically faulty,” Spicer said. “They’re pretty good at dollars, not as good at people.”
But Spicer left out the fact that the incorrect number was one part of a larger estimate, which the CBO got right, according to The Washington Post, which fact checked his statements. The newspaper noted that the CBO estimated that 30 million people, or 11%, of the population under 65 would not have health insurance in 2016. The actual number was pretty close—27.9 million or 10.3%.
Trump proud of AHCA
Spicer also said that President Donald Trump is “proud” of the bill and touted the CBO’s projection that the AHCA would reduce the federal deficit by more than $300 billion over the next 10 years. He also emphasized the focus on providing more insurance choices to patients, which he said will lead to more people getting coverage, but he stopped short of saying the bill would achieve the president’s goal of “insurance for everybody."
"I think the President's goal is to provide insurance—to make insurance available to everybody, yes. That's what he intends to do," Spicer said. "I think that is—the goal of this is to make sure that every American has the choice and a plan that they can afford and that they have the choice to buy. And that's not what they have now."
Trump and his administration also met this week with people who were financially strained by the ACA and has put those faces front and center in crafting a narrative around the Republicans’ proposal.
Here's a roundup of other recent updates on the AHCA:
- Trump met with House Speaker Paul Ryan Tuesday, where they discussed the forming factions for and against the Republican’s bill and ways to craft a closing strategy, according to another article by The Washington Post. The proposal faces significant criticism among members of Trump’s populist base, and headlines blasting the bill and Ryan have led outlets like Breitbart News and right-wing radio since it was revealed. Trump’s team fears that backing the bill is a political trap, according to the article.
- The AHCA may make health insurance less affordable for the poor and the elderly, particularly because it will end the Medicaid expansion, so some Republican senators are offering solutions that could bolster the bill among their constituents, reported The New York Times. The GOP cannot afford significant defection from its members to pass the bill in the Senate, so Ryan and other leaders are leaning on Trump, who has yet to make full use of the bully pulpit on healthcare, to push potential defectors toward voting for the bill.
- In an effort to garner more support for the bill, House Republicans have begun crafting a “sidecar” legislation that would allow insurance to be sold across state lines and would cap malpractice damages, according to the Associated Press—healthcare policies long rhetorically supported by the party. However, even if the bill can pass through the House of Representatives, it would almost certainly die in the Senate, as it would become detached from the main AHCA and require 60 votes to pass. Republicans only have 52 Senate seats, and it would be a hard sell to convince Democrats to participate in efforts to repeal and replace the ACA.
- In a look at the Republicans’ efforts to dismantle the ACA, Politico noted that they’re walking into many of the same mistakes Democrats made when they passed the healthcare reform law. Broad promises of “insurance for everybody” or that premiums will decrease across the board set expectations extremely high, and the GOP faces many of the same inter-party squabbles that made the healthcare reform process a long and arduous one for the Democrats. They’re also seeking to ram through their repeal and replacement bill without courting any bipartisan support, the same criticism the GOP has lobbed at Democrats in the years since the ACA was passed, according to the article.