Se­nate health bill projects 22 mil­lion unin­sured

South Florida Times - - HEALTH - Associated Press

By ALAN FRAM

WASH­ING­TON - 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, in a blow to GOP lead­ers' hopes of push­ing the plan through the cham­ber this week.

The CBO cov­er­age es­ti­mates pose yet an­other prob­lem for Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mc­Connell, R-Ky., who un­veiled the leg­is­la­tion last Thurs­day. By Fri­day af­ter­noon, he was fac­ing public state­ments of op­po­si­tion from five GOP sen­a­tors - three more de­fec­tions than he can af­ford and still win ap­proval for the leg­is­la­tion over united Demo­cratic op­po­si­tion. Oth­ers have ex­pressed con­cerns.

The 22 mil­lion ad­di­tional peo­ple with­out cov­er­age un­der the Se­nate pro­posal 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. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has called the House ver­sion ``mean'' and called on Se­nate Repub­li­cans to ap­prove leg­is­la­tion with more “heart.”

Of the 22 mil­lion, 15 mil­lion of them would have no in­sur­ance next year, the non­par­ti­san bud­get of­fice said. That could be a par­tic­u­lar con­cern to Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who faces per­haps the tough­est 2018 re-elec­tion race of any Se­nate Repub­li­can and who's said he can't sup­port a health care pack­age that cuts Med­i­caid like the GOP plan and takes cov­er­age from “tens of mil­lions of Amer­i­cans and tens of thou­sands of Ne­vadans.”

Sen. Su­san Collins, R-Maine, and sev­eral other mod­er­ate GOP sen­a­tors have also ex­pressed con­cerns about the mea­sure's im­pact on cov­er­age. On the other hand, four con­ser­va­tives have said they op­pose the cur­rent ver­sion of the bill for not do­ing enough to re­duce pre­mi­ums.

The bud­get of­fice re­port said it be­lieves the Se­nate bill "would in­crease the num­ber of unin­sured peo­ple sub­stan­tially. The in­crease would be dis­pro­por­tion­ately larger among older peo­ple with lower in­come” - es­pe­cially those be­tween 50 and 64 and with in­comes be­low 200 per­cent of the poverty level, or around $30,300 for a sin­gle per­son. Those ages are just shy of when peo­ple be­gin qual­i­fy­ing for Medi­care cov­er­age.

Ear­lier Mon­day, Repub­li­can lead­ers added a penalty to their bill for peo­ple who've had at least a 63-day gap in cov­er­age dur­ing the past year. Un­der that pro­posal, if they then buy in­sur­ance, they would face a six-month de­lay be­fore it takes ef­fect. The bud­get of­fice said its es­ti­mate in­cluded the im­pact of that ad­di­tion.

The change was aimed at help­ing in­sur­ance com­pa­nies and the in­sur­ance mar­ket by dis­cour­ag­ing healthy peo­ple from wait­ing to buy a pol­icy un­til they get sick. In­sur­ers need healthy cus­tomers who are in­ex­pen­sive to cover to help pay the costs of peo­ple with med­i­cal con­di­tions that are costly to treat.

The Se­nate bill would roll back much of Obama's health care over­haul. His statute pres­sures peo­ple to buy in­sur­ance by im­pos­ing a tax penalty on those who don't, but the Repub­li­can leg­is­la­tion would re­peal that penalty, ef­fec­tively eras­ing Obama's so-called in­di­vid­ual man­date.

The House ap­proved its leg­is­la­tion in May. It would re­quire in­sur­ers to boost pre­mi­ums by 30 per­cent for those whose cov­er­age lapsed. Mitch Mc­Connell

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF STOPTHEDRUGWAR.ORG

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