At 4:30 PM on Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office released its report on the American Health Care Act and, as expected, it was not pretty. According to the report, 14 million Americans would lose their health insurance next year if the bill was made law, and 23 million would lose their insurance over the next ten years. Millions more would also have health insurance that was insurance in name only, precisely what Republicans make such a fuss about when it comes to Obamacare. According to a separate analysis, the bill would cut $662 billion in taxes, much of it for the wealthy.
As my colleague Brian Beutler wrote shortly after the bill was passed, the CBO score shows that the bill guts coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and the poor, two groups that Republicans have repeatedly and strenuously said would be covered.
None of this is surprising—this CBO report is very similar to the last one—but it only serves to make the House’s passage of this bill more craven and repugnant. It was solely for political reasons that the AHCA was rushed through the House before it could be scored. Paul Ryan rightfully feared that a report like this would spook House Republicans, particularly those in vulnerable seats. Republicans will stress that the CBO often gets things wrong, but this is an exceedingly weak argument, given the extent of the potential damage.
There was also the sense that something, anything had to be passed so the Senate would start moving on its own approach to health care reform. But this terrible CBO score will put an enormous amount of pressure on senators to produce a less draconian bill. It is likely to push the Senate in a more moderate direction, particularly when it comes to Medicaid. That, in turn, may be too much to stomach for the Freedom Caucus and other House Republicans. In any case, Senate Republicans are painted into a corner—and their only response may be to push something equally, if not more, craven.
This is still the Republican Party in 2017 we’re talking about, so anything’s possible. If the Senate does produce its own version of the AHCA, however, and it goes to conference, the distance between the two bills might be too large to overcome. By pushing this terrible bill through before the CBO could score it, House Republicans may have screwed the Senate—and the AHCA. If we’re lucky, at least.