After months of discussions and years of efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Senate Republicans, who currently hold 52 seats, postponed a vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 after they failed to secure the needed 50 votes to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The Better Care Reconciliation Act is a revision of the American Health Care Act, which was passed by U.S. House of Representative Republicans in May. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said the Senate would reconvene on the subject to get “50 people in a more comfortable place” to support the bill after the July Fourth break.
While Senate Democrats made no bones about the bill’s unfair tax breaks for the rich and the “heartless” deep funding cuts to various programs, including Medicaid, five Republican holdouts expressed various concerns, including that the new bill looks too much like a restoration of the Affordable Care Act rather than a repeal, that the cuts to Medicaid are too much, that it would not lower premiums, and that the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis proved that the bill would be too crippling to the general public to pass it. And the Congressional Budget Office has proven to have a lot of sway in such decisions, despite being nonpartisan.
Relying on the Budget Office to get the facts straight seems to be a bit of an oddity, given that its predictions have been so off, routinely. According to Matthew Fienup, executive Director of the Center for Economic Research and Forecasting (CERF) at California Lutheran University, when the American Health Care Act was being considered, the Budget Office had not accurately predicted nor accounted for its miscalculations with the Affordable Care Act:
“From the beginning, CBO has had a very hard time predicting the number of people that would gain private insurance under ObamaCare. CBO’s original forecast, made in March 2010, predicted that 21 million people would purchase private insurance through the ObamaCare exchanges in 2016. The actual number of enrollees is 10.4 million. CBO was off by 50 percent, a perfect example of D.C. Math.
“D.C. Math also gave us the original ObamaCare cost estimates. CBO’s March 2010 analysis predicted that ObamaCare would cost $940 billion over 10 years. D.C. Math for sure. In 2012, CBO updated their cost figure to $1.76 trillion for 10 years. In 2014, the number was revised to over $2 trillion.”
Fienup this week further concluded that “the ObamaCare exchanges have deteriorated significantly. I think it is very plausible to argue that they are in a death spiral and cannot survive in the overwhelming majority of states under current law.”
What exactly did the Budget Office analysis of the Senate Bill say? In summary: 22 million people would lose health coverage in the next 10 years, of which 15 million would lose Medicaid coverage; the bill is projected to lower the deficit by billions over 10 years, and cut taxes on corporations and the wealthy. By Fienup’s conclusions, the actual repercussions could be much better or much worse, given the overall inconsistency coming out of the Budget Office.
While California legislators weigh in on SB 562, Healthy California Act, which is being packaged as a dream for state residents, guaranteeing health care for all with a significant array of services covered through a single-payer plan, we just can’t help wondering why we can’t, as a country, a world leader and the mother to so many inventions, figure this thing out without causing deep-seated fears?
Even worse, the data gatherers and forecasters simply can’t stay on course to give reasonable people an accurate picture of what we really need to be prepared for. While we feel that the best solution is to reform the Affordable Care Act, it seems that implosion is the course we are stuck on as we continue down the course of no compromise between the two parties. Imagine, if instead of trying to pass the bill by just a slim margin of a deeply divided split that GOP leaders tried something different — worked a compromise that pulled more to the middle and passed with a supermajority. One can dream. Perhaps, California legislators will be able to learn from this dire situation before putting us all in another one.