CBO estimates 23 million to lose health insurance under Republican bill

An estimated 23 million people would lose health coverage by 2026 under Republican legislation aimed at repealing Obamacare, the CBO reports.

Report says federal deficits would fall by $119 billion between 2017 and 2026 under the bill

An elderly patient receives treatment at an emergency room in Illinois. The House passed its version of the health bill before it had been evaluated by the non-partisan CBO. (Jim Young/Reuters)

An estimated 23 million people would lose health coverage by 2026 under Republican legislation aimed at repealing Obamacare, a non-partisan congressional agency said on Wednesday in the first calculation of the new bill's potential impact.

The report from the Congressional Budget Office also said federal deficits would fall by $119 billion between 2017 and 2026 under the bill, which was approved this month by the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.

The CBO score raises the stakes for Republican senators now working on their own version of the legislation.

House Republicans came under sharp criticism for passing the bill before the CBO could make its assessment. The Trump administration already has relied on the House bill's health-care spending cuts in its proposed federal budget.

The bill is called the American Health Care Act and would fulfil a long-running Republican goal — repealing and replacing much of former President Barack Obama's 2010 Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.

Protesters rally last month during U.S. House voting on the American Health Care Act, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Republicans have faced division within their own party over how to repeal and replace Obamacare. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)

President Donald Trump, who made replacing it a key campaign promise in 2016, and other Republicans say Obamacare is too costly and creates unwarranted government interference in health care decisions.

Congress is aiming to pass the bill under a process called reconciliation, which requires only a simple majority of votes in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 52-48 majority, instead of 60 votes. Under those rules, all elements of the bill must have a direct budgetary impact or else they must be stricken from the legislation.

Senate may not pass bill

A group of 13 Republican senators led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are expected to draft their own version of the health-care bill in the coming months. McConnell, however, told Reuters on Wednesday he does not yet know how Republicans will have the necessary votes.

The bill would eliminate most Obamacare taxes that help subsidize private health coverage for individuals, roll back the government's Medicaid health plan for the poor and disabled and replace the law's income-based tax credits for buying medical coverage with credits based on age.

The new CBO score predicts the AHCA would cover 1 million more Americans than a previous version of the bill, which the agency estimated would have left 24 million more people uninsured than Obamacare in 2026.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act demonstrated in Colorado earlier this year, against a bill at the state level that would chip away at Obamacare. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press)

In the weeks leading up to the House vote on May 4, two controversial amendments were added to the bill that ultimately helped secure its passage, including one that was added the day before the vote.

One amendment would allow states to opt out of a popular Obamacare provision that prevents insurers from charging people with pre-existing conditions higher rates, as well as one that required insurers to cover 10 essential health benefits such as maternity care and prescription drugs.

Another amendment allocates an additional $8 billion over five years to help people with pre-existing conditions cover medical costs.

The CBO estimates a total of 51 million people under age 65 would be uninsured in 2026 under the latest House Republican health care bill. Besides the 23 million newly uninsured by the bill, 28 million under age 65 would lack insurance that year under the current health law.

The CBO also says that, compared with Obama's 2010 overhaul, average premiums for people buying individual policies would be lower. The report says that is partly because insurance on average would cover less of people's health care costs.

With files from Associated Press