Wednesday afternoon the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its estimate of the effect an Obamacare repeal, without any new law to replace it, would have on the uninsured rate, on premiums, and on the deficit. The CBO says repeal would cut deficits by $476 billion between now and 2026 but the number of uninsured people would rise sharply. From the CBO:
The number of people who are uninsured would increase by 17 million in 2018, compared with the number under current law. That number would increase to 27 million in 2020, after the elimination of the ACA’s expansion of eligibility for Medicaid and the elimination of subsidies for insurance purchased through the marketplaces established by the ACA, and then to 32 million in 2026.
CBO adds that premiums would go up 50% by 2020 and would double by 2026. The combination of higher premiums and lower enrollment would lead to half the nation’s population having no participating insurer by 2020. By 2026 that would extend to 3/4 of the population. In short, Obamacare would be nearly gone.
Of course, the idea here was never to repeal the law and then do nothing. In theory, you’d never get to the end state CBO describes in 2026 because something else would have taken Obamacare’s place long before then. Politically, the idea was that once Obamacare is gone, Democrats would be more motivated to help pass something to replace it.
There was a time when I thought this might have been the best course, but as time goes by I have my doubts whether or not it would work. Democrats are having some success with their obstructionism, so I doubt they would be motivated to work on a replacement before 2018’s midterm elections. As for 2020, wouldn’t they be better off blaming the GOP and using the issue to try to take back the White House?
With three GOP Senators immediately coming out against it, the repeal only bill may be dead in the water. Here’s Sen. Lamar Alexander saying he doubts there are 40 votes for it:
— Nolan D. McCaskill (@NolanDMcCaskill) July 19, 2017