GOP focus on lowering health premiums may undermine benefits

Budget Director Mick Mulvaney holds a news conference to discuss the Trump Administration's proposed 2018 federal budget at the White House

Another group is concerned about the American Health Care Act after the Congressional Budget Office concluded the legislation would cause 23 million people to lose their health insurance and drive premiums up: health care companies.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a report Wednesday estimating the bill, which narrowly passed the House of Representatives earlier this month, would achieve $119 billion in savings over 10 years. The Senate Republicans have argued that the new health care bill will protect more Americans, so the coverage losses are not a good sign. "Without health insurance, people must often choose between putting food on the table and receiving the medical care they need". But lawmakers remained quiet after Thursday meetings about what would actually be in the bill, and significant disagreements remain, on everything from Medicaid and tax credits to how to help people with existing health conditions. States could also gain permission for insurers to charge older customers far higher premiums.

But, he says, no matter how efficient a state can be, with less funding they can only do so much. For the one-third of the nation where states would modestly reduce coverage requirements, average premiums would be about 20 percent lower, the analysts estimated. This means that people are charged the same rate regardless of factors like health status. Another change would allow states to decide whether to require insurers to cover health benefits such as maternity care and prescription drugs that are mandatory under current law. The CBO score showed the elderly and the sickest Americans could face higher insurance premiums. "Otherwise, it's like giving someone half a bulletproof vest".

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Coming at things from a slightly different angle, Trump also promised to fulfill a longtime priority of conservative health care reformers: Allowing people to buy insurance across state lines.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., downplayed the report Wednesday as "a technical procedural step". All Democrats seem likely to oppose the bill, and Vice President Mike Pence could break a 50-50 tie.

The bill would also repeal almost all the taxes imposed in the ACA to pay for the new benefits, including taxes on wealthy individuals and much of the health industry. The credits would be based on age instead of income and would be capped for higher earners. But premiums will likely never be lower than they are today, considering the trend in health cares costs. Under the current law, that person pays approximately $1,700 per year in premiums.

At an income of $68,200, out-of-pocket cost for premiums may decrease from $5,100 to between $1,750 and $1,250. In 2010, the CBO projected that about 24 million would be on the Obamacare exchanges by 2017.

"It is clear from the CBO analysis that the amended Republican health care plan is no better than the original bill", said Sean Cahill, Director of Health Policy Research at The Fenway Institute. Republicans have repeatedly touted their bill as lowering premiums, but they've said less about how it would affect what consumers have to shell out for care.

The administration report found that premiums more than doubled since "Obamacare" took effect, but independent experts say it's not an apples-to-apples comparison.

Carrying signs and chanting in opposition to the AHCA, Representatives from Planned Parenthood Advocates of OH, the Human Rights Campaign, the Universal Health Care Action Network and about two dozen speakers and protesters gathered outside the Scripps Building on Walnut downtown where Portman has an office.



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