An estimated 23 million people would lose health coverage by 2026 under Republican legislation aimed at repealing Obamacare, a nonpartisan congressional agency said Wednesday in the first calculation of the new bill's potential impact.
The healthcare bill passed the House of Representatives on May 4 without any Democratic support; Republicans in the Senate are now working on the bill in an effort to pass it through the upper chamber without Democratic votes.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a non-partisan congressional group which scores budgetary legislation, said that the AHCA as it is would reduce the cumulative federal deficit by $199m (£153m) over the period to 2026.
Several Republicans have expressed concern about the House plan's rollback of Medicaid, and a provision that allows insurers to increase health premiums for people with pre-existing conditions - a practice Obamacare prohibits.
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Reactions to the new CBO score have thus far fallen along predictably partisan lines.
The CBO believes the uninsured number will go up to 24 million by 2026 due to "changes in Medicaid enrollment - because some states would discontinue their expansion of eligibility, some states that would have expanded eligibility in the future would choose not to do so, and per-enrollee spending in the program would be capped".
While Republicans repeatedly warn that Obamacare is collapsing, CBO said sufficient demand remains under current law for insurance marketplaces to stay "stable in most areas". The agency estimated that about one-sixth of the USA population - more than 50 million people - live in states that would make substantial changes under the waivers. In some cases, people would use tax credits under the law to buy plans that don't cover major medical risks.
In addition to the preexisting conditions factor, there are also waivers for states against Obamacare's essential health benefits mandate which keeps maternity care and emergency room visits on all individual plans. Those savings would be partially offset by other changes in coverage provisions - spending for a new Patient and State Stability Fund, created to reduce premiums, and a reduction in revenues from repealing penalties on employers who do not offer insurance and on people who do not purchase insurance.
Premiums could rise by an average of about 20% in 2018 and 5% in 2019, the CBO reported.