The highly anticipated Congressional Budge Office analysis of the American Health Care Act, the Republican plan to replace Obamacare, has some devastating numbers — but you would never know it from House Speaker Paul Ryan’s remarks on the score.
A key architect of the bill, Ryan had a rosier take on the nonpartisan organization’s analysis, which came out Monday afternoon and estimated that under the GOP plan, 24 million people would lose their health insurance by 2026.
“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.”
Ryan’s statement is only accurate if supplemented by two important stipulations: According to the CBO analysis, premiums would continue to go up for the next four years, and would only “go down” in comparison to the current law after 2020. And by 2026, premiums are estimated to be 10 percent lower than they currently are under Obamacare, a far cry from the benchmark that critics of the bill are using.
On a Monday morning press call, Michael Needham, CEO of Heritage Action, a conservative group that has staunchly opposed the AHCA, stressed that “the relevant score should be how it compares to pre-Obamacare levels.”
But that’s not what Ryan is doing — his benchmark is the current law. And this difference is key to understanding how pro-AHCA voices want to frame the debate around a “better” health plan.
It’s also worth noting that the “dramatic” reduction to the deficit — $337 billion — comes out of major cuts to Medicaid, a health program for low-income Americans, and the entitlement reform will largely redirect tax credits to the wealthy.
Here is Ryan’s statement in full:
This report confirms that the American Health Care Act will lower premiums and improve access to quality, affordable care. 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. It’s important to note that this report does not take into consideration additional steps Congress and the Trump administration are taking that will further lower costs and increase choices.
I recognize and appreciate concerns about making sure people have access to coverage. Under Obamacare, we have seen how government-mandated coverage does not equal access to care, and now the law is collapsing. Our plan is not about forcing people to buy expensive, one-size-fits-all coverage. It is about giving people more choices and better access to a plan they want and can afford. When people have more choices, costs go down. That’s what this report shows. And, as we have long said, there will be a stable transition so that no one has the rug pulled out from under them.
This week, a third House committee will debate the American Health Care Act as part of an open, transparent process. We have set out a clear goal—to give every American access to quality, affordable care—and a clear plan to achieve it. Now we must keep our promise and deliver.