June 27, 2017
When Senate Republicans met for lunch today, the most important thing on the menu had nothing to do with food. With the clock counting down to the July 4th recess, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and special guest Mike Pence had their work cut out for them lobbying GOP holdouts on the newly-released health care plan. Breaking bread wasn’t enough to bridge the divide between the various Republican factions so leaders decided to postpone the vote until after the holiday when more changes could be made.
For some conservatives, the real indigestion started before the meal with the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) score of the Senate bill. While plenty of the analysis was positive, leaders didn’t exactly get a helping hand from the liberal media, who seized on the suggestion that 22 million Americans (one million less than the House plan) would “lose” their health insurance under McConnell’s Better Care Reconciliation Act. At first glance, that’s a jarring number. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. Under the House and Senate bills, there’s no government-imposed mandate for people to buy insurance. And if they aren’t being fined for forgoing health care, more Americans will choose to be uninsured -- almost half of that 22 million, CBO points out.
And while both sides usually lean on the budget group to give them a ballpark estimate of how much their proposals will cost, these are educated guesses. Like most forecasters, the CBO isn’t always right -- especially when they’re dealing with something as enormous as one-sixth of the U.S. economy. As we found out with Obamacare’s score (it was supposed to lower the deficit, remember?), there are just too many variables and outstanding factors to consider. In a bit of good news for Leader McConnell, the Senate version saves $188 billion more than the House bill and would carve almost twice as deeply into the federal deficit ($321 billion) over the same 10-year span.
On the downside, Americans would notice a bump in premium prices in the short term until 2020, which is when they’d see a reduction in costs by about 30 percent. Of course, premiums have already skyrocketed an average of 105 percent under Obamacare -- with no relief in sight. Doing nothing is not an option for the GOP, which, from a political and practical standpoint, has to act. “As more and more people continue to lose coverage and face fewer health care choices, President Trump is committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare, which has failed the American people far too long,” the White House said in a statement. At least one insurance company, Anthem, told reporters that the GOP’s plan “will markedly improve the stability of the individual market and moderate premium increases.”
For conservatives, the biggest concern isn’t the cost in dollars -- but lives. Like the House measure, McConnell’s bill includes the most important carrot for pro-lifers: defunding Planned Parenthood (which was just caught on tape in St. Paul promising to “break the baby’s neck” if it’s born alive). This is not, as Forbes points out, “just a bar on receiving Medicaid funding for abortions, which is already precluded by the annual federal spending provision known as the Hyde Amendment. Rather, it is a total shutoff of Medicaid funding for all of Planned Parenthood’s work…”
The other non-negotiable for pro-lifers is language that would stop people from using the bill’s tax credits to buy plans that include abortion coverage. The House version included Hyde amendment language that would prohibit the credits from being used for abortion. However, there is concern that the Senate parliamentarian may rule that the Hyde language is out of order on the reconciliation bill. That’s a major concern. But, thanks to some creative thinking, the lion’s share of the funding will funnel through a program called SCHIP, which is subject to the Hyde amendment. FRC is working to insure that whatever the mechanism that taxpayers are not forced to fund abortion. I will keep you update with the latest as this unfolds.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.