CBO, JCT Release Cost Estimate of Senate GOP ACA Repeal, Replace Bill

CCH Tax Day Report

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) released a cost estimate on June 26 of Senate Republicans’ Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA), a measure that would repeal and replace, in part, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (P.L. 111-148) (TAXDAY, 2017/06/23, C.1). The Senate discussion draft, as updated on June 26 to place stricter guidelines on gaps in coverage, retains the same repeal or delay of the taxes implemented under the ACA as first proposed on June 22.

The CBO and JCT have estimated that the BCRA would reduce the federal deficit by $321 billion over the 2017-2026 period. This savings estimate is $202 billion more than the estimated savings under the House-passed ACA repeal and replace bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA) (HR 1628) (TAXDAY, 2017/05/05, C.1).

Additionally, the CBO and JCT estimated that the BCRA would increase the number of uninsured by 22 million in 2026, compared to the projected number under current law. The “CBO and JCT estimate that, in 2018, 15-million more people would be uninsured under this legislation than under current law—primarily because the penalty for not having insurance would be eliminated,” the report noted.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., touted the Senate measure in a June 26 statement for cutting taxes by more than $700 billion and reducing premiums by 30 percent in 2020 as compared to current law. “The Senate will soon take action on a bill that the CBO just confirmed will reduce the growth of premiums under (the ACA), reduce taxes on the middle class, and reduce the deficit,” he said.

Meanwhile, Democrats are planning to hold the Senate floor on the evening of June 26 to deliver a series of speeches opposing the Senate healthcare bill. The bill is expected to come to the Senate floor for a vote as early as June 27.

“There will be buyouts, bailouts and tweaks, that will be hailed as fixes by the other side,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a June 26 press conference of anticipated changes to the bill. Regardless of forthcoming amendments and changes, the bill will still largely benefit the wealthy, he added. According to Schumer, the Senate bill will result in Americans paying higher premiums “simply so the wealthiest of Americans can pay less in taxes.”

House Democrats also began weighing in with their disapproval on the Senate measure after the cost estimate was released. “Today’s CBO score has pulled back the curtain of Senate Republicans’ health care bill: it’s about giving huge tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires…” House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Richard Neal, D-Mass., said in a June 26 statement.

White House

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters in a June 26 press briefing that President Trump is supportive of ways to make the Senate bill stronger than as it currently stands. “We feel very confident…with where the bill is. He’s (Trump) going to continue to listen to senators who have ideas about how to strengthen it,” Spicer said.

Missing Votes

At press time, the Senate bill, as it stands, does not currently have enough Republican backing to pass in the Senate. Five Senate Republicans have been outspoken in their critique of the Senate discussion draft and are unwilling to vote for the bill in its current form. The bill can only afford to lose two Senate GOP votes to move on to the House, which would require Vice President Pence to serve as the tie-breaking vote.

By Jessica Jeane, Wolters Kluwer News Staff

Updated Discussion Draft of the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, an Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute to HR 1628

CBO Cost Estimate of the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, an Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute to HR 1628

JCT Estimated Revenue Effects of the Tax Provisions Contained in Title I of HR 1628, the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, an Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute as Posted on the Website of the Senate Committee on the Budget on June 26, 2017, JCX-30-17

Updated Section-by-Section Summary of the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017, an Amendment in the Nature of a Substitute to HR 1628

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