In spite of the fact that we haven't seen a final draft of the bill, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a revised analysis of the GOP health care plan on Thursday. The analysis accounted for amendments lawmakers made Monday in an effort to broaden the bill's appeal among Republicans.
The main takeaway from the CBO report is that the amended bill would reduce the federal deficit by $150 billion — rather than $337 billion — over the course of 10 years. And it wouldn't change the number of individuals who would be uninsured under the plan — about 24 million — by 2026, according to the report.
But The Washington Post's Matt O'Brien explained how the report could be underestimating the costs of the GOP American Health Care Act (AHCA) in a tweet thread Thursday.
Because the CBO report didn't account for last-minute amendments Republicans made to the bill on Wednesday night — namely the elimination of "essential health benefits" that insurers are required to cover under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — it's possible that the bill would reduce the deficit by even less than $150 billion, O'Brien wrote.
In a bid to win over conservative House Republicans, lawmakers amended the bill to eliminate mandatory coverage of emergency services, hospitalizations, maternity care, and prescription drugs, among other essential health benefits.
Because those services wouldn't be covered, that could create an incentive for insurers to offer cheap plans with limited coverage for low-income patients who receive federal subsidies in the form of tax credits.
"[T]he issue is that millions of Americans will be given essentially free money in the form of tax credits they can use to buy health insurance," Vox's Matt Yglesias wrote. "The free money won’t be enough to buy good health insurance, but without the essential health benefits in place, there will be no requirement that insurance companies offer good insurance. You can just craft a cheap, totally worthless plan, spend a ton to market it, and scoop up government money."