White House press secretary Sean Spicer acknowledged on Tuesday that millions of people would go without health insurance as a result of Republicans’ plan to replace Obamacare.
But, he said, they would be doing so as a result of the repeal of Obamacare’s tax penalties for those without insurance.
“You were saying that people can’t get access to insurance, they don’t have coverage,” CNN’s Jim Acosta said to Spicer during his daily press briefing. “But if you remove the individual mandate, you are going to have people who are not going to buy coverage, they are not going to buy insurance. And so, getting back to the Congressional Budget Office score, would you concede that there will be some coverage losses, perhaps in the millions? That there will be millions of people who will not have health insurance as a result of what you’re doing?”
“Well again, sure, except you have to look at the current situation,” Spicer responded. “You are mandated by law to buy insurance right now under Obamacare.”
“Thirteen-plus million people have asked for a hardship exemption, and then 6.5-plus million have determined to pay the penalty,” he continued. “So currently, if we look at the universe and say it’s roughly 30 million people, only 9 million people engaged in the exchanges when required by law. The majority, almost two-thirds, if my back-of-the-envelope math is right, about two-thirds have chosen to apply for a hardship exemption or pay a penalty.”
The CBO said in its report that millions of people would decide not to keep purchasing health care on the individual market as a result of the AHCA. Part of that, the office said, was as a result of the loss of Obamacare’s mandate that individuals be covered by an insurance plan.
But, the CBO said, the AHCA’s tax credits are considerably less generous for those buying insurance on the individual marketplace, compared to Obamacare’s subsidies — and especially so for older and lower-income Americans. The Republican plan also freezes Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid: the CBO estimated 14 million fewer people would enroll in that program by 2026, versus under Obamacare.
Acosta asked Spicer about the 24 million fewer people the CBO projected would have insurance by 2026, relative to if Obamacare stayed as law.
“If they actually had choices, and had a plan option that was down at a budget that they could afford, there is a higher likelihood that they would buy a plan that was, a, tailored to them, and that, b, they could afford,” Spicer responded.