Congressional Republicans are forging ahead with plans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act despite encountering a few obstacles this week.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said Tuesday that at least 18 million people could lose their health insurance in the first year if Congress repeals the ACA without enacting a replacement. By eliminating the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid eligibility and subsidies for purchasing insurance through the ACA’s marketplaces, that number would then increase to 32 million by 2026.
Democrats cited the CBO report in criticizing Republicans for rushing ahead with a repeal bill without a detailed replacement plan at the ready.
“Republicans need to wake up to the brutal impact that repealing the ACA will have on the lives of their constituents,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). “Behind each of these statistics are stories of millions of Americans whose lives hang in the balance. Republicans will have to decide whether they are really willing to hurt tens of millions of Americans just to satisfy their blind ideological obsession with repealing the Affordable Care Act.”
Republicans countered by accusing Democrats of misrepresenting their intentions, which are to ensure that the millions of Americans who currently have coverage through the ACA don’t suddenly find themselves uninsured.
“This [CBO] projection is meaningless as it takes into account no measures to replace the law nor actions that the incoming administration will take to revitalize the individual market that has been decimated by Obamacare,” said AshLee Strong, a spokesperson for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI).
On Wednesday, the political sparring over the ACA repeal moved to a Senate hearing with Rep. Tom Price, who is President-elect Trump’s choice to head up the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
During the hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Price was vague on how Republicans should go about replacing the ACA, but he assured the committee that the incoming administration would put in place “a different construct” that would “make certain that individuals had the care and the kind of coverage that they needed for whatever diagnosis would befall them.”
President-elect Trump added to the debate himself last weekend by declaring that his intention is to have “insurance for everybody” and “much lower deductibles” for consumers.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member on the Senate HELP Committee, said Trump’s promise is in direct conflict with statements Price has made about replacing the ACA.
“Just days ago, President-elect Trump promised, quote, ‘insurance for everybody,’” Murray said during the hearing. “But Congressman Price, your own proposals would cause millions of people to lose coverage, force many people to pay more for their care, and leave people with pre-existing conditions vulnerable to insurance companies’ rejecting them or charging them more.”