The Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the House health care bill is a devastating indictment.
The report, released yesterday, showed that millions of Americans would lose health insurance and the quality of insurance for millions more would deteriorate. The savings from that carnage — to borrow a favorite word of President Trump’s — would pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.
And yet the immediate reaction to the C.B.O. report also shows why you should be worried that the Senate will nonetheless decide to pass a version of the House bill.
Here’s what I mean: Much of this initial reaction has missed the point. It has focused on the modest differences between the new C.B.O. report, which analyzed the final House bill, and a C.B.O. analysis from March of an earlier version of the bill. Among the differences, the final bill would deprive an estimated 23 million people of insurance, compared with the 24 million in the March analysis.
Don’t be distracted by these small differences.
Distraction is a tactic of the politicians who are trying to take away health insurance from people. These politicians can’t sell their proposals on the merits. That’s why both the House and, thus far, the Senate have refused to hold any hearings. They know that virtually every expert across the ideological spectrum — including groups representing doctors, nurses, hospitals, patients and senior citizens — opposes the bill.
Unable to win a debate on its merits, Republican leaders need to change the subject. They can’t let their proposals be judged on whether they improve the American health care system, because they don’t. They need to create a lower standard by which the plan will be judged.
The House did so in the frantic week that it passed its bill by pointing to a last-minute amendment that made a superficial improvement. House members then claimed they had fixed their bill.
Senate leaders are showing signs of following the same path — and the C.B.O. report gives them a chance to start down it. The report will encourage top Republicans to claim that their bill is already getting better and that the Senate will keep improving it in coming months.
In truth, the bill is fatally flawed. Its objective is to reduce federal spending on health insurance for the middle class, poor, sick, elderly and disabled in order to cut taxes for the wealthy. Maybe the final version, once the Senate has made its tweaks, will take insurance from 23 million people, or maybe 15 million people. But any law based on the House bill is guaranteed to worsen the health care system.
That’s the overwhelming message of the C.B.O. report.
The saddest part of this situation is that our health care system, including Obamacare, very much needs improvement. And there are solid bipartisan ideas out there, including some that would increase states’ flexibility or lower consumer expenses. The Senate has members from both parties with the savvy and the policy chops — like Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray — to turn those ideas into a bill.
Is it too much to hope that they cast aside the distractions from the House’s failed plan and start fresh?
The full Opinion report from The Times follows, including Abbe Gluck on the G.O.P.’s sabotage of Obamacare.”
Read more in today’s NYT.