Wake Up To Politics - March 14, 2017
Wake Up To Politics
This is your wake up call.
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
602 Days until Election Day 2018
1,330 Days until Election Day 2020
Good morning! Reporting from WUTP world HQ (in my bedroom), I'm Gabe Fleisher: this is your wake up call.
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- CBO: 24 Million Would Become Uninsured Under GOP Health Care Bill The House Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, the American Health Care Act (AHCA), already had a rocky path to passage, facing opposition from moderates and conservatives alike. That path got rockier on Monday with the release of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report predicting that the bill would result in 24 million more Americans not having health insurance by 2026.
- The CBO is a nonpartisan office that "scores" legislation for its long-term impacts. The agency estimated that 14 million more people would be uninsured under the AHCA by 2018 than under Obamacare, and 21 million by 2020. In total, by 2026, 52 million Americans would be without health insurance under the AHCA (a new record), compared to 28 million under Obamacare, according to the CBO. That increased number is due to a number of factors, including the elimination of the "individual mandate," which punishes people who do not pay health insurance, as well as the changes to Medicaid expansion and to tax credits, which will make health care less affordable.
- However, the report also estimates that the legislation would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion by 2026, a main Republican goal. Much of those savings come from changes to federal insurance subsidies, as well as cuts to Medicaid, despite President Donald Trump's campaign promise not to touch the entitlement program. The report also said that the federal revenue would be reduced by $592 billion by 2026, as Republicans would achieve in repealing a number of taxes imposed by Obamacare.
- In addition, the CBO found that health care premiums for single policyholders under the AHCA would be 15-20% higher than Obamacare in the next two years, but after 2020, premiums would begin to decrease. By 2026, the CBO predicted that average premiums would be 10% lower than they would be under Obamacare. However, the report largely found that older and poorer Americans would pay much less than those who are younger and richer.
- The CBO report used an example comparing a 21-year-old making $68,200 and a 64-year-old making $26,500. Due to the AHCA replacing federal subsidies for health insurance with age-based tax credits, the younger individual would pay $1,450 a year in insurance premiums under the proposed plan, compared to $5,100 under Obamacare. The older individual would pay $14,600 in premiums, compared to $1,700 currently, a 758% increase.
- While Democrats and some Republicans criticized the GOP plan due to the number of uninsured individuals predicted by the report, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) said on Fox News on Monday that he was "encouraged" by the CBO's findings. “This report confirms that the American Health Care Act will lower premiums and improve access to quality, affordable care," Ryan said in a statement. "CBO also finds that this legislation will provide massive tax relief, dramatically reduce the deficit, and make the most fundamental entitlement reform in more than a generation. These are things we are achieving in just the first of a three-pronged approach."
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) also focused on the decreases to the deficit and to premiums. "The takeaway from today’s announcement is clear: the Congressional Budget Office agrees that the American Health Care Act will ultimately lower premiums and increase access to care," he said in a statement. Both Ryan and McConnell used a similar talking point, that the AHCA would "improve" or "increase" access, claiming that more people would have access to health insurance under the bill, although the CBO has found that less people would be able to afford it.
- Meanwhile, the Trump Administration had a completely different message. Instead of celebrating some parts of the report and skating over others, the White House completely rejected the CBO findings. "We disagree strenuously with the report that was put out," Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told reporters outside of the White House, calling it "just not believable" and "virtually impossible to have that number [of uninsured Americans] occur."
- The CBO report only served to energize Democratic opposition, and to make it harder for some Republicans to back the bill. "The CBO score shows just how empty the President's promises, that everyone will be covered and costs will go down, have been," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said on Monday. "This should be a looming stop sign for the Republicans' repeal efforts."
- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi also hit the plan: "“In terms of insurance coverage, it’s immoral," she said. "In terms of giving money to the rich at the expense of working families, it is indecent and wrong."
- Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) called the coverage numbers "cause for alarm," adding that the report "should prompt the House to slow down and reconsider certain provisions of the bill." Sen. Bil Cassidy (R-LA) also said the report was "concerning," summarizing: "It doesn't look good."
- Senate Schedule The upper chamber's day:
- 2pm: Convenes, resumes consideration of a resolution to rescind an Obama-era Labor Department rule regulating when states could require drug testing for workers seeking unemployment insurance. The resolution passed the House in a 263-189 vote last month; a Senate vote today is possible.
- House Schedule The lower chamber's day:
- 9am: Convenes for legislative business
- 10:30-11:30am: Votes on the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act, which allowing courts to require plaintiffs pay expenses incurred by a defendant over a lawsuit found to be frivolous and unreasonable.
- The President's Schedule What President Donald Trump is doing today:
- 12:30pm: lunch with Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia.
- 3pm: telephone call with Joseph Swedish, CEO of health insurance company Anthem, and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
- 4pm: telephone call on health care with House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
- Especially right now, Ryan needs Trump. The President is much more popular than the Speaker in the districts of conservative members and holds a lot more clout in attempting to persuade them to support the House GOP health care plan. On the other hand, if Trump pulls his support for the bill (or even declines to actively campaign for it), the measure is dead-on-arrival in Congress.
- All of that makes the timing very interesting on a Breitbart report published Monday night, which exclusively reported on audio from a call Ryan made to Republican lawmakers in October (after the Access Hollywood tape). “I am not going to defend Donald Trump—not now, not in the future,” Ryan said on the call, according to Breitbart.
- A number of top Trump Administration aides have ties to Breitbart, most prominently White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, the outlet's former executive chairman.
For more on Wake Up To Politics, listen to Gabe on NPR's "Talk of the Nation", St. Louis Public Radio, the Political Junkie podcast, and on StoryCorps; watch Gabe on MSNBC's "Up with Steve Kornacki"; and read about Gabe in Politico, the Washington Post, Independent Journal, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Salon, the Globe, and the St. Louis Jewish Light.