May 30, 2017
It's a good thing the House and Senate are out this week. Judging by the headlines, they'll need their rest to navigate choppy waters of the health care repeal when they return. Like Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), who managed to hold the shakiest of coalitions together for a May 4 vote, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has his hands full juggling the personalities and agendas of 52 very different Republicans.
That job didn't get any easier last week when the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its score of the House bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Both sides usually lean on the nonpartisan group to give a ballpark estimate of how much their proposals will cost. But, like most forecasters, CBO isn't always right. Predicting something as enormous as one-sixth of the U.S. economy is tricky business, especially when there are so many factors outstanding. "If you're looking at the CBO for accuracy," White House press secretary Sean Spicer pointed out, "you're looking in the wrong place."
Despite its wobbly track record, the Left seized on the CBO analysis of the GOP-passed bill as proof that the plan is doomed. Far from it, experts at the Wall Street Journal explain. Writing that this week's "panic attack" should have been "diminished by the Congressional Budget Office's [unreliability]," the editors go on to highlight the report's biggest straw man: the 23 million who will supposedly be "uninsured" by 2026 as a result of the AHCA. At first glance, that's an eye-popping number. But it doesn't tell the whole story. Under the House bill, there's no government-imposed mandate for people to buy insurance. And if they aren't being fined for forgoing health care, guess what? Millions of Americans will once again choose to be uninsured. "CBO decided to classify these people as 'uninsured,' though without identifying who accepts Obamacare's definition of standardized health benefits and why they deserve to substitute their judgment for the choices of individual consumers."
Liberals have also latched on to the CBO's "with 'high-cost medical events.'" But, as the WJS debunked, "under the House reform, Americans won't have any problem insuring against a bad health event, even if CBO won't admit it. The House bill is designed to create more alternatives that can accommodate the diverse needs and preferences of a nation of some 320 million people. CBO has become a fear factory because it prefers having the government decide for everybody."
And look at where that failed philosophy has gotten us. The Obamacare exchanges are imploding. Premiums have skyrocketed an average of 105 percent -- if you're lucky. And if you're not, you're staring down $12,000 premiums like Alaskans. Thanks to President Obama, "the average American on the individual market is paying almost $3,000 more in premiums this year than 2013. Insurance companies are racing for the exits, which means people have even fewer choices. In the states with just one option for coverage, there's no competitive incentive to drive down costs. Doing nothing is no longer an option. From a practical and political standpoint, the GOP has to act.
And soon. With just seven weeks until the August recess, the Senate would be wise to lean into the positive parts of the House's plan, which is that it would lower premiums starting in 2020, reduce spending by $119 billion, and save something even more precious: lives. After the latest batch of undercover videos on Planned Parenthood, a horrifying collection that ought to have every American clamoring for the end of taxpayer funding for the abortion giant, Republicans can save themselves some work by leaving the House's pro-life provisions alone.
Frankly, it's a national scandal that taxpayers have been forced into partnership with an organization who jokes about how "gross" it is when eyeballs from aborted babies roll down into their laps. Or a group who brags about ignoring the law against partial-birth abortion, saying "I might ask for a second set of forceps to hold the body at the cervix and pull off a leg or two, so it's not PBA." For once, Congress ought to listen to Planned Parenthood's Lisa Harris, who doesn't shy away from the truth about abortion. "Let's just give them all the violence. It's a person. It's killing. Let's just give them all that." Every senator who watches this footage should come to the same conclusion as the majority of Americans: It's time to end the federal gravy train to Planned Parenthood and redirect those dollars to the thousands of community health centers that provide more services to more women. Now is the time to act -- no more excuses!
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.