Insurance premiums would soar and some 18 million Americans would lose health coverage if Republicans partially repeal President Barack Obama's health care law without a replacement, Congress' nonpartisan budget office estimated Tuesday.
The Congressional Budget Office analyzed a GOP 2016 repeal measure, which Republicans have cited as a starting point for their 2017 drive to dismantle and replace Obama's health overhaul.
Premiums for policies bought from online marketplaces established by Obama's law would rise up to 25 percent a year after enactment of repeal. They'd about double by 2026, the report estimated.
The numbers served as a flashing yellow light for this year's effort by President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans to annul Obama's law and — in a more complex challenge — institute their own alternative. While Republicans have produced several outlines for how they'd recraft Obama's 2010 statute, they've never united behind one plan despite years of trying and there are many unknowns about what will happen in insurance markets while the GOP effort is underway.
The report also became immediate political fodder for both sides in what is expected to be one of this year's premier battles in Congress.
Trump seemed to complicate that fight over the weekend when he told The Washington Post that a forthcoming GOP plan would provide "insurance for everybody." In contrast, some congressional Republicans have used a more modest description, saying plan will offer "universal access."
The 2016 bill that CBO analyzed did not replace Obama's law with a GOP alternative, which Republicans have insisted will be an integral part of their health care drive this year.
Because of that omission, Donald Stewart, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the report "assumes a situation that simply doesn't exist and that no one in Congress advocates." AshLee Strong, spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called the estimates "meaningless" because they ignored plans for legislation and regulatory actions by the incoming Trump administration aimed at revamping how people could obtain coverage.
Even so, Republicans have cited last year's bill — which Obama vetoed — as a starting point for their 2017 drive to erase his law. Finding unity among Trump and GOP lawmakers on what a new plan should look like is expected to be a challenging task
Democrats used the report as ammunition to assail the Republican health-care push.
"Nonpartisan statistics don't lie: it's crystal clear that the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act will increase health care costs for millions of Americans and kick millions more off of their health insurance," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a written statement that used the law's formal name.