CBO To Update GOP Health Plan Analysis

May 24, 2017
Originally published on May 24, 2017 8:17 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

This afternoon, the Congressional Budget Office is expected to release an updated analysis of the Republican health care bill. This analysis will project the cost of the bill and how many people it will cover, among other things. And those hard numbers may have political effects, as we hear from NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: House Speaker Paul Ryan says Republicans feel pretty good about the coming CBO score.

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PAUL RYAN: We have every reason to believe we're going to hit our mark.

DAVIS: But there's cause for concern, so much so that the speaker hasn't sent the bill over to the Senate yet, even though it passed the House nearly three weeks ago. That's because if today's CBO projections don't line up with their stated targets, budget rules would force the House to re-vote on the bill. The speaker says that's not likely.

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RYAN: CBO scores have been unpredictable in cases in the past. We don't think that that's going to be the case, but again, we just want to make sure that we dot our I's and cross our T's exactly the right way so that when we send a bill over to the Senate, it is not, as we say, fatal.

DAVIS: Even if Republicans clear that procedural hurdle, the CBO report could bring fresh headaches. The original analysis projected 24 million fewer Americans will be insured over the next decade. That's because the Republican bill repeals the individual mandate. Republicans like New Jersey's Tom MacArthur argue that under their plan, insurance will be more affordable, and individuals will willingly sign up. So he shrugs off the CBO.

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TOM MACARTHUR: I think to some degree, CBO is making guesses. And those guesses take on the force of fact in some people's minds, not in my mind.

DAVIS: Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole says today's CBO score of the House bill will make headlines and allow Democrats to score some political points, but it probably won't make a policy difference. The House bill is already a nonstarter in the Senate, where Republicans are trying to write their own health care bill.

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TOM COLE: Critics used it and used it effectively, I think, the discredit of the bill. But I think the reality is the Senate's going to do something very different, and so I've never worried that much about it.

DAVIS: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters that health care is dominating their agenda. A 13-member working group is meeting regularly to figure out a bill that can pass the Senate with only Republican votes.

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MITCH MCCONNELL: So we continue in these three-times-a-week meetings spending our time on the health care issue which we'll move forward with sometime in the near future.

DAVIS: McConnell wants a vote by the August break. If Republicans reach a deal, their bill will need a fresh CBO score before it can get a vote. Susan Davis, NPR News, the Capitol.

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