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Panel: Senate Bill Adds 22M Uninsured  06/27 06:07

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate Republican health care bill would leave 22 
million more Americans uninsured in 2026 than under President Barack Obama's 
health care law, the Congressional Budget Office estimated Monday, complicating 
GOP leaders' hopes of pushing the plan through the chamber this week.

   Minutes after the report's release, three GOP senators threatened to oppose 
a pivotal vote on the proposal this week, enough to sink it unless Senate 
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., can win over some of them or other GOP 
critics. The bill will fail if just three of the 52 Republican senators oppose 
it, an event that would deal a humiliating blow to President Donald Trump and 
Senate leaders.

   The 22 million additional people without coverage is just a hair better than 
the 23 million who'd be left without insurance under the measure the House 
approved last month, the budget office has estimated. Trump has called the 
House version approved last month "mean" and told Senate Republicans to approve 
legislation with more "heart."

   In good news for the GOP, the budget office said the Senate bill would cut 
the deficit by $202 billion more over the coming decade than the House version. 
Senate leaders could use some of those savings to attract moderate support by 
making Medicaid and other provisions in their measure more generous, though 
conservatives would prefer using that money to reduce federal deficits.

   The White House lambasted the nonpartisan budget office in a statement, 
saying it has a "history of inaccuracy" projecting coverage. Democrats said the 
report confirmed their own analysis of the GOP measure.

   "This bill is every bit as mean as the House bill," said Senate Minority 
Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

   Of the 22 million without coverage by 2026 under the Senate plan, 15 million 
would be without it next year, the budget office said. That could be a 
particular concern to moderate Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who faces perhaps the 
toughest 2018 re-election race of any Senate Republican and has said he can't 
support the measure if huge numbers of people lose coverage.

   The budget office report said coverage losses would especially affect people 
between ages 50 and 64, before they qualify for Medicare, and with incomes 
below 200 percent of poverty level, or around $30,300 for an individual.

   In one example, the report says that in 2026 under Obama's law, a 
64-year-old earning $26,500 would pay premiums amounting to $1,700 a year, 
after subsidies. Under the Senate bill, that person would pay $6,500, partly 
because insurers would be able to charge older adults more.

   Moderate Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said she would vote against a GOP 
procedural motion, expected Wednesday, to begin formally debating the 
legislation. She tweeted that she favors a bipartisan effort to fix Obama's 
2010 statute but added, "CBO analysis shows Senate bill won't do it."

   In addition, conservative Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said he would oppose that 
motion unless the bill was changed. And fellow conservative Ron Johnson, 
R-Wis., said he had "a hard time believing" he'd have enough information to 
back that motion this week.

   Those two --- plus fellow conservatives Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of 
Texas --- have said the current measure doesn't do enough to erase Obama's law 
and reduce premiums. All four said last week they'd oppose the bill without 
changes, as did Heller.

   Most of the disgruntled senators have left the door open to backing the 
measure if it's changed.

   "It's going to be very close, but we're working with each one of them in 
trying to accommodate their concerns without losing other support," said No. 2 
Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas.

   Vice President Mike Pence invited four GOP senators to dinner Tuesday to 
discuss the bill, his office said: Lee and Sens. James Lankford of Oklahoma, 
Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Ben Sasse of Nebraska.

   The Senate plan, aimed at rolling back much of Obama's 2010 statute, would 
end the tax penalty that law imposes on people who don't buy insurance, in 
effect erasing Obama's so-called individual mandate. It would let states ease 
Obama's requirements that insurers cover certain specified services like 
substance abuse treatments, and eliminate taxes on wealthier people and medical 
companies that Obama's law used to expand coverage.

   It would also phase out extra federal money that law is providing to 31 
states to expand Medicaid to additional low-income earners. And it would put 
annual caps on overall Medicaid money the government until now has 
automatically paid states, whatever the costs.

   CBO said that under the bill, most insurance markets around the country 
would be stable before 2020. It said that similar to the House bill, average 
premiums around the country would be higher over the next two years --- 
including about 20 percent higher in 2018 than under Obama's statute --- but 
lower beginning in 2020.

   But the office said that overall, the Senate legislation would increase out 
of pocket costs for deductibles and copayments. That's because standard 
policies would be skimpier than currently offered under Obama's law, covering a 
smaller share of expected medical costs.

   In another troublesome finding for the legislation, the budget office warned 
that in some rural areas, either no insurer would be willing participate in the 
individual market or the policies offered would be prohibitively expensive. 
Rural America was a stronghold for Trump in the presidential election.

   The American Medical Association, the nation's largest doctors' group, said 
it opposed the Senate bill because some people would lose coverage and others 
would find it too costly. They wrote that the measure violates the physicians' 
dictum, "First, do no harm."

   ___

   Associated Press writers Erica Werner, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Ken Thomas 
and Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.


(KA)

 
 
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