The score that the Congressional Budget Office is expected to release Thursday of the latest version of the Senate Obamacare replacement legislation will not include analysis of the biggest change to the bill senators may or may not be voting on next week: An amendment by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that the insurance industry already warned would cause “millions of more individuals” to “become uninsured.”
The Senate Budget Committee posted a draft of the legislation dated July 20 that did not include the Cruz language, which had been placed in brackets in a draft dated July 13. His proposal, called the “Consumer Freedom Option,” would allow insurers to sell skimpy, unregulated plans as long as they also sell Obamacare-compliant policies. The concern among insurers, actuaries and policy experts is that such a scheme would severely segment the market and cause premiums to rise beyond the point of affordability for consumers with pre-existing conditions who needed more comprehensive Obamacare plans.
Last week, Republicans hinted that they would move ahead with a vote on Cruz’s proposal without a CBO score on it, claiming that the nonpartisan office was taking too long for their aggressive timelines. Instead, the Department of Health and Human Services offered analysis that was made public Wednesday.
That HHS report painted a rosy picture of the Cruz proposal, claiming that it lowered premiums and boosted enrollments. The report’s methodology was very opaque, however, and the assumptions that it did make were questionable, if not outright bizarre. For instance, it looked at the effect of the Cruz amendment by comparing the Affordable Care Act with that amendment and without it, rather than study how it would interact with the GOP replacement bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act.