In the coming days, the Congressional Budget Office will release an updated analysis of the Senate bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. The CBO will likely predict lower health insurance coverage rates if the bill becomes law. The American people and Congress should give this prediction little weight in assessing the bill’s merit.
The reason: The CBO’s methodology, which favors mandates over choice and competition, is fundamentally flawed. As a result, its past predictions regarding health-care legislation have not borne much resemblance to reality. Its prediction about the Senate bill is unlikely to fare much better.
When Obamacare passed in 2010, the CBO projected a healthy individual market with 23 million people enrolled in exchange plans by this year. The CBO predicted that by 2017, exchange plans would be profitable and annual premium increases low.
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Politics is a team sport, and Republicans are playing it poorly. They have one more chance in the Senate to repeal and replace ObamaCare—possibly their last hope for a victory.
Democrats are performing like a well-coached team. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has all 48 members of his caucus on board with saving ObamaCare at all cost. It’s been a successful strategy.
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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) are working with their GOP colleagues on an alternative approach to replacing Obamacare: keeping much of the federal taxes in place and sending that money to the states to control. Graham explained, “If you like Obamacare, you can re-impose the mandates at the state level. You can repair Obamacare if you think it needs to be repaired. You can replace it if you think it needs to be replaced. It’ll be up to the governors. They’ve got a better handle on it than any bureaucrat in Washington.” Cassidy, who is a physician, said that the plan would keep popular protections under Obamacare, including a ban on denying coverage for pre-existing conditions.
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Republican leaders have revised their health care bill in an effort to deliver on seven years of promises to repeal and replace Obamacare. They immediately lost two pivotal votes, leaving none to spare. The reworked bill McConnell presented to fellow Republicans on Thursday aims to win conservatives’ support by letting insurers sell low-cost policies. At the same time, he seeks to placate hesitant moderates by adding billions to combat opioid abuse and help consumers with skyrocketing insurance costs. President Trump tweeted this morning, “After all of these years of suffering thru ObamaCare, Republican Senators must come through as they have promised!”
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Republican leaders unveiled a revised health-care bill on Thursday, setting up a Senate watershed next week. Few votes will reveal more about the principles and character of this Congress.
Months of stations-of-the-cross negotiations between conservative and GOP moderates have pulled the bill towards the political center, and for the most part the new version continues the journey. This leftward shift is Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s bid to meet the demands of still-recalcitrant Republican moderates. The bill remains a net improvement over the Obama Care status quo, but the question now is whether they’ll take yes for an answer.
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The new Senate health bill abolishes the following Obamacare taxes: 1) Individual Mandate Tax; 2) Employer Mandate; 3) Medicine Cabinet Tax; 4) Flexible Spending Account Tax; 5) Chronic Care Tax; 6) Health Insurance Tax; 7) Medical Device Tax; 8) Tax on prescription medicine; 9) Tax on Medicare Part D retiree prescription drug coverage; 10) Health Savings Account (HSA) Withdrawal Tax; and 11) 10% excise tax on small businesses with indoor tanning services. The Senate bill also delays the “Cadillac” tax on employer-provided insurance until 2026 and doubles the maximum HSA contribution from $3,400 to $6,550 for individuals and from $6,750 to $13,100 for families. The Senate bill also allows Americans to use HSA funds to pay for health insurance premiums.
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Twenty-three years ago, President Bill Clinton and Senate Democrats canceled two weeks of the August recess to pass a major health care bill. They got nowhere.
Now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying the same thing with the GOP for the August break, and it may lead to the same result.
“I’m hoping for better this time,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Tuesday afternoon after saying earlier he was “very pessimistic” the GOP would succeed. In 1994, Democrats “kept us in and we didn’t accomplish anything.”
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