This post has been updated with the new CBO estimate released Wednesday
If Republicans' attempts to roll back Obamacare were a chicken crossing the road, it would be, like, one-quarter of its way across. And Wednesday is a big day for Republicans'
chicken health-care bill to reach the halfway point.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its estimate on the financial and real-life impact of Republicans' attempt to roll back Obamacare. House Republicans took the unusual step earlier this month of passing their version of this legislation without knowing how many people could lose/gain health insurance or how much it would cost them and the federal government.
Now, they could pay a political and procedural price for that. When the CBO estimated the impact of a different version of Republicans' bill in March, the bill lost so much support among House Republicans that leaders canceled a high-profile vote.
This time, Senate Republicans will have to decide whether to tweak the House's version or throw it in the trash. And this estimate is only a fraction less politically damaging than the first one was.
The CBO is an important political tool for both sides in the health-care debate, since it puts real numbers to a complicated bill. Here are the three numbers we're looking at:
That's how many fewer people would be insured under Republicans' health-care plan than are insured by Obamacare now, according to the CBO's new estimate.
Watch for: This is barely different than the CBO's first estimate in March, which estimated that 24 million people would lose insurance over the next decade.
That's not good for this bill's chances. The 24 million number is a big reason the first bill never came up for a vote in the House: Moderate Republicans couldn't vote for a bill that meant more people would lose their insurance than gained it under Obamacare (about 20 million).
Some of those people would willingly lose their insurance, the CBO said, because they would no longer be required by law to have health insurance. (A mandate to have health insurance or else pay taxes is the linchpin of Obamacare.) Others, though, would unwillingly lose their insurance because they wouldn't be able to afford it.
Which brings us to our next number to watch for:
That's the CBO's estimate of how much insurance premiums would rise for elderly, poor people over the next decade if Republicans' second version of this bill became law. In a report filled with brutal numbers for Republicans, this may be the most brutal. (Just like it was in the first estimate.)
Republicans said their bill will make health insurance cheaper. Except, they'll have to figure out a way to explain why, under Obamacare, 64-year-olds making $26,500 a year are on track to pay $1,700 in annual premiums in 2026. And under the GOP bill, they would pay anywhere between $13,600 to $16,100.
Watch for: How preexisting conditions exacerbate this. This new bill lets states choose to allow insurers to jack up the prices for people with preexisting conditions.
The CBO did estimate that premiums overall will begin to drop by 2020 -- as much as 20 percent lower by 2026 for states that opt out of key pieces of Obamacare. But insurance policies are cheaper because, on average, they would provide less benefits, the report said.
That means the savings will be for mostly young, healthy people. Republicans' health-care bill would make insurance more expensive for older, sicker people, according to the CBO, particularly for older, poorer, sicker people:
"Although the agencies expect that the legislation would increase the number of uninsured
broadly, the increase would be disproportionately larger among older people with lower
income—particularly people between 50 and 64 years old with income of less than
200 percent of the federal poverty level."
That's how much this health-care bill is projected to reduce the deficit over the next decade.
The whole purpose of this report is to make sure that the bill complies with a requirement — given by Congress to Congress — to reduce the federal deficit by $2 billion over the next decade. That's because Republicans are attempting to get this bill through Congress without any Democratic votes, so they have to use a budgetary rule that allows them to avoid a Senate Democratic filibuster. If the math whizzes at the CBO calculate that the House bill falls short of that goal, the bill can't move on to the Senate, and House Republicans will have to start over.
Watch for: Why this deficit goes down. This version of the bill gets more expensive than the March one for the federal government because it repeals taxes and fees on health insurers while upping money to help states cover people with preexisting conditions.
Now the Senate has to consider these numbers then decide whether to take up this version of the bill or toss it in the trash can and totally start over. If they start over, what the Senate passes may not be able to re-pass the more-conservative House of Representatives, and then we're right back where we started: Republicans wanting to repeal Obamacare but struggling to figure out how.