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Panel to Release Health Bill Effect    05/24 06:24

   Congressional Republicans are about to learn more about whether their drive 
to dismantle President Barack Obama's health care law has been worth the 
political pain they've been experiencing.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Congressional Republicans are about to learn more about 
whether their drive to dismantle President Barack Obama's health care law has 
been worth the political pain they've been experiencing.

   The Congressional Budget Office planned to release its estimate Wednesday of 
what impact the GOP's House-passed health care overhaul would have on coverage 
and premiums.

   The report could give talking points to House Republicans for their bill, or 
to Democrats who voted unanimously against it. For GOP senators holding private 
meetings to sketch out their own legislation, its figures could serve as a 
starting point as they consider changing the House's Medicaid cuts, tax credits 
and other policies.

   "We'll use that sort of as a backdrop against which to plan some of our 
Senate options," said No. 3 Senate GOP leader John Thune of South Dakota.

   The nonpartisan budget office, lawmakers' official fiscal analyst, released 
two reports on earlier versions of the House bill in March. Both concluded that 
the legislation would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 24 million 
over a decade, a mammoth number that contributed to GOP defections that 
thwarted House passage until they narrowly approved revised legislation this 
month.

   The budget office also said the legislation would increase premiums by an 
average 15 percent to 20 percent over the next two years, but push premiums 10 
percent lower than they'd otherwise be by 2026. Many Republicans say their 
chief goal is to reduce premiums.

   In late April, moderate and conservative leaders helped craft new language 
that eked out enough votes for its 217-213 approval on May 4.

   Those provisions included waivers states could get for insurers to raise 
premiums on some people with pre-existing conditions, and to ignore health 
benefits that must be covered under Obama's law. States could also gain 
permission for insurers to charge older customers far higher premiums.

   Hoping to make Republicans vulnerable on the issue, Democrats have attacked 
those changes as victimizing people with serious and costly-to-treat medical 
problems.

   The House bill would reduce taxes by around $1 trillion over the coming 
decade, the budget office said, largely on higher income people and health care 
industry firms. It would replace Obama's tax subsidies for health insurance 
consumers, based largely on income and premiums, with GOP tax credits geared 
more to people's ages.

   Most of those losing coverage would be beneficiaries of Medicaid, the health 
care program for poor and disabled people, though people buying individual 
policies or getting coverage at work would also become uninsured. The last 
budget office report said the House bill would cut Medicaid by $839 billion 
over 10 years.

   Erasing former President Barack Obama's health care law was a top promise of 
Donald Trump during his presidential campaign, and by congressional GOP 
candidates since its 2010 enactment.

   But writing legislation that can pass with only Republican votes has proven 
agonizing. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., canceled a March vote after 
opposition from party conservatives and moderates would have sealed its defeat, 
and the two wings of the GOP spent weeks blaming each other for the bill's 
demise.

   Meanwhile, the Trump administration released a report Tuesday that found a 
105 percent increase in average premiums for individually purchased coverage 
from 2013, just before Obama's statute took effect, to this year.

   The report from Health and Human Services looked at premiums in the 39 
states served by HealthCare.gov, the online exchange for buying coverage. It 
found the average monthly premium increased from $224 in 2013 to $476 in 2017.

   However, the comparison may not be exactly apples-to-apples. Prior to 2013, 
insurers were allowed to turn away people with health problems, and there was 
no federal requirement for a standard benefits package. Those two "Obamacare" 
changes made coverage more robust, but also increased the cost.


(KA)

 
 
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