As Congressional Republicans have bumbled and stumbled their way through the process of repealing Obamacare, the fact that most of the proposed legislation over the past few months actually leaves much of the hated law standing hasn’t stopped the Left from wailing that Republicans will kill people en masse by “taking away” their healthcare.
The primary support for that talking point has been the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate that around 20 million people would lose their health insurance under the GOP plan.
“But wait,” you might ask. “There isn’t just one GOP plan. There have been several. How would they all eliminate the same number of insurance plans?”
Good catch. Well, health policy expert Avik Roy noticed that too, and wondered why the CBO projects that repealing Obamacare and doing nothing else, repealing and replacing it with flat tax credits to buy health insurance, and repealing and replacing it with means-tested tax credits would all result in 22-23 million people “losing” coverage?
It turns out there’s a reason for that: most of the “loss” isn’t a loss at all, but rather comes from the repeal of the individual mandate — people choosing not to keep the plans forced on them by Obamacare.
Roy explains that according to information a congressional staffer leaked to him, the mandate’s repeal accounts for 73 percent of the 20 million estimate, and that therefore no matter what else Republicans do, as long as they repeal the individual mandate they’ll be accused of “taking away” a minimum of 16 million people’s insurance:
[T]he CBO has never published a year-by-year breakout of the impact of the individual mandate on its coverage estimates.
But the CBO has developed its own estimates of that impact, during work it did last December to estimate the effects of repealing the individual mandate as a standalone measure. Based on those estimates, of the 22 million fewer people who will have health insurance in 2026 under the Senate bill, 16 million will voluntarily drop out of the market because they will no longer face a financial penalty for doing so: 73 percent of the total […]
It’s why the various Senate tweaks to the Better Care Reconciliation Act — repealing fewer of Obamacare’s tax hikes, say, or throwing $45 billion at opioid addiction — have no impact on the CBO’s coverage estimates.
The key takeaway from this revelation should be simple: so much of the GOP’s difficulty in getting this done has been rooted in fear of the backlash for “lost” coverage. But as Roy has shown, the narrative has been rigged so that the attack will be inevitable for any action that halfway resembles a serious effort to fulfill the GOP’s promise.
So Republicans have only two choices: do the right thing and figure out competent messaging to beat back the Democrats’ fear-mongering, or admit that the R after their names means nothing and they never had any intention other than going to Washington and being diet Democrats.