The two committee chairmen shepherding the new Obamacare repeal and replacement bill through the House bobbed and weaved when pressed by reporters Tuesday on whether their plan will provide as many people with health insurance coverage as Obamacare does today.
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) held a press conference Tuesday morning to promote the American Health Care Act—a bill unveiled Monday night that would repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a system of tax credits to buy private insurance.
Asked directly if more or fewer people would be covered under his bill than under the Affordable Care Act, Brady said Tuesday that a more appropriate question would be: “Does it cover more people with affordable health care than today?” Brady answered neither question, instead telling reporters than in his Texas district “more people have opted out of Obamacare than are taking it, and those who have it, frankly can’t use it. The deductibles are too high. The copayments are too high. It doesn’t help them.”
“I believe we’re increasing access to affordable care for those who want it,” Brady added. “I think that’s an important distinction here.”
Because the new bill repeals the individual mandate, freezes Medicaid expansion and transforms it into a block grant program, and offers far less generous subsidies than the Affordable Care Act, independent analyses predict that millions of people are likely to lose their insurance under the new GOP plan.
Walden similarly refused to answer whether Americans could lose their health insurance under his bill.
“This insurance market is collapsing before our eyes,” he said. “When I talk to insurers, they’re looking at whether they can sustain the losses that they’re now enduring.”
Walden’s and Brady’s committees will start marking the bill up Wednesday, despite the fact that the Congressional Budget Office has yet to analyze what it will cost the federal government and how many people could lose their health insurance.
Walden said he does not know when the CBO analysis will be ready and made public. He argued Tuesday that the CBO score is not necessary to push ahead with a committee markup of the bill.
“The facts of the matter are not what this will or won’t do going forward, the fact is that we’ve arrived at the scene of a pretty big wreck and we’re trying to clean up the mess.”