President Trump said health insurance costs will go “down, down, down” but the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said rates will rise up to 20 percent in the short term and 24 million will lose coverage by 2026 under a GOP plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
In Florida, which leads all states with $5.2 billion in Obamacare subsidies to make premiums cheaper, the state’s senior U.S. senator said the report quantifies what many opponents of repeal have been saying.
“It is wrong to take away health insurance for 24 million people, as well as increase the cost to seniors,” said Democrat Bill Nelson.
About 14 million fewer people will have insurance in 2018 compared to current law, rising to 24 million in a decade, the CBO report said.
Republican leaders pushed back against the report’s calculations.
“We disagree strenuously,” said Republican Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price about the CBO report. He said the plan will “cover more individuals at a lower cost.”
Administration officials were already bracing for a politically difficult uninsured number. Trump met with health consumers and providers from Florida and other states in a White House listening session Monday before the report came out.
Trump told the group he advised GOP leaders, “I say the best thing you can do politically is wait a year, because it (Obamacare) is going to blow itself off the map. But that’s the wrong thing to do for our country. It’s the wrong thing to do for our citizens.”
Trump said the replacement plan would eventually give “more choices at lower cost” and “you’ll see rates go down, down, down.”
Taxpayers would save $323 billion during 10 years mostly through cuts in Medicaid and subsidies to make premiums more affordable on ACA marketplace plans, targeted mainly at lower-income consumers, CBO officials figured.
Rates in ACA marketplace plans will rise 15 percent to 20 percent in 2018 and 2019 as some people drop out because insurance is less affordable without subsidies and there is no longer a penalty for not having insurance, the report said.
Rates will begin to stablize in 2020 and by 2026 will cost about 10 percent less than they would under the original ACA, the congressional agency found.
CBO officials said they think marketplace insurance premiums will stabilize after a couple of years, as people in a broader range of income levels will be eligible for tax credits to help blunt costs. They said the combined effect of the changes would “lower average premiums enough to attract a sufficient number of relatively healthy people to stabilize the market.”
But in a section with important implications for Florida, the report said there will be winners and losers based on age.
“Under the legislation, insurers would be allowed to generally charge five times more for older enrollees than younger ones rather than three times more as under current law, substantially reducing premiums for young adults and substantially raising premiums for older people,” the CBO report.
That’s why groups including AARP have protested what they call an “age tax.”
The report “makes very transparent the benefits of the Affordable Care Act,” said Mark Pafford, former Democratic minority leader in the state legislature from West Palm Beach. It also “highlights what an abomination this bill in Congress is,” he said.