Updated on March 13, 2017 at 6:34 p.m. ET
The Republicans’ effort to pass their proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act just got a whole lot harder.
The Congressional Budget Office on Monday projected that the House leadership’s American Health Care Act would result in 24 million Americans losing their health insurance while raising premiums for those covered on the individual market. Their bill would lower federal deficits by $337 billion over 10 years, largely as a result of cuts to Medicaid that would reduce its enrollment by 14 million, according to the estimate. Average premiums would rise by as much as 20 percent in 2018 and 2019 before falling in later years.
CBO is the official nonpartisan scorekeeper of legislation on Capitol Hill, and its projections on the impact of policy proposals can determine whether they have the political momentum to pass the House and Senate. But they are rarely a surprise, and both parties had telegraphed in recent days how they thought the score would turn out.
Democrats had criticized Republicans for advancing their legislation through two key committees without a cost projection from CBO. They were anticipating Monday’s estimate like children who knew what present they were getting for Christmas, so confident were they that the CBO would validate their claim that the GOP bill would strip coverage from millions. Republicans, meanwhile, have been downplaying the CBO for days in an effort to take the sting out of its projection and prevent wavering members from withdrawing their support. The leadership proposal was already struggling in both chambers amid criticism from conservatives that the bill does not move far enough away from Obamacare policies. If rank-and-file lawmakers react poorly to the estimates, it could be a fatal blow.