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White House tries to salvage GOP healthcare proposal

US Speaker of the House Paul Ryan speaks to the media about the American Health Care Act at the Capitol in Washington DC.
WASHINGTON — The White House launched an intensive effort this week to salvage support for the Republican plan to revise the Affordable Care Act, even as a growing number of lawmakers weighed in against the proposal.
One day after a devastating Congressional Budget Office analysis, Vice-President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price went to Capitol Hill to rally backing for the proposal. But widespread dissatisfaction among House and Senate lawmakers — conservatives and moderates alike — showed no signs of dissipating, increasing the chances that House Speaker Paul Ryan will have difficulty passing the bill if it goes to the House floor in the next two weeks, not to mention whether it can collect a majority in the Senate.
“I have serious concerns about the current draft of the House bill,” said Senator Ted Cruz. “As written, I do not believe the House bill would pass the Senate.”
The White House is putting its political capital behind the Ryan proposal, however, sending emissaries to the Hill and meeting with sceptical lawmakers — including Cruz, who went to the White House on Tuesday along with a small group of fellow conservatives. Trump has enthusiastically backed the GOP plan invarious statements and tweets, and its failure — or the failure of a similar measure — would probably tarnish his promise to replace the healthcare legislation with a better system.
Ryan’s proposal to revise the Affordable Care Act would lower the number of US citizens with health insurance by 24 million while reducing the federal deficit by US$337 billion by 2026, congressional budget analysts said Monday.
According to a Congressional Budget Office projection, 14 million fewer people would have health insurance next year alone. Premiums would be 15 percent to 20 percent higher in the first year compared with the Affordable Care Act and 10 percent lower on average after 2026. By and large, older citizens would pay “substantially” more and younger citizens less, the report said.
The report from the Congressional Budget Office fuelled concerns that the GOP healthcare plan would prompt a dramatic loss in health-insurance coverage, potentially contradicting President Donald Trump’s vow that healthcare reform would provide “insurance for everybody” and threatening support from moderate Republican lawmakers.
Yet it also boosted House leaders’ efforts to persuade sceptical conservatives, who felt that the measure did not go far enough in repealing the Affordable Care Act, to support what the CBO now predicts will be deficit-reducing legislation.

Clash of reactions
The analysis immediately prompted a clash of reactions between the White House and Republican leaders. Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney, said the report is “just absurd,” and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said: “We disagree strenuously” with it.
Ryan defended the report, saying that it proves that the proposal will “dramatically” reduce the deficit and usher in “the most fundamental entitlement reform in a generation.”
“Our plan is not about forcing people to buy expensive, one-size-fits-all coverage,” he said. “It is about giving people more choices and better access to a plan they want and can afford. When people have more choices, costs go down. That’s what this report shows.”
The release of the CBO’s report marks the beginning of a new phase in the debate over the week-old healthcare bill, which is moving through the House on an accelerated timetable despite opposition from Republicans, Democrats and virtually every sector of the US healthcare industry. Conservative Republicans, in particular, have demanded changes to the measure in exchange for their support.
The CBO report offered conclusions that might neutralise some conservative concerns, perhaps softening those members’ opposition to the measure. At the same time, some moderate Republicans expressed concerns about the number of people who would lose coverage.
Democrats cited the CBO numbers to support their flat-out opposition to the plan.
“The CBO score shows just how empty the president’s promises, that everyone will be covered and costs will go down, have been,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer. “This should be a looming stop sign for the Republicans repeal effort.”
“I would hope that this would make the Republicans say ‘We can’t do this,” said Senator Patty Murray, a member of Democratic leadership. “Twenty-four million people lose their coverage, it is total chaos to the country and I hope they pause, say ‘This is not what we should be doing,’ and move on.”
The White House has spent the past week engaged in a charm offensive aimed at bringing conservatives on board, as well as an effort to discredit the CBO before it released numbers that might cast the plan in a negative light.
“If you’re looking to the CBO for accuracy, you’re looking in the wrong place,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said last week.
Ryan had predicted that the CBO would forecast a loss in coverage, but he had also suggested that those affected would be exercising their choice not to buy healthcare plans, a choice that is penalised under the Affordable Care Act.
The Affordable Care Act has increased coverage by 20 million — almost half of those through the insurance markets the law created for people who cannot get affordable coverage through a job, and the rest through an expansion of Medicaid in 31 states and the District of Columbia. According to the report, an estimated 52 million people would be uninsured in 2026, compared with 28 million who would lack insurance that year under the current law.
Eventually, many people would lose health insurance because the legislation’s tax credits would be less generous than those in the current law and because some states might undo the expansion of their Medicaid programmes.                 w
— Washington Post
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