Here's how 51 senators can reduce premiums

That last bit is the important part. The AHCA’s tax credits don’t vary based on the regulatory environment. So from a parliamentary standpoint, repealing ObamaCare’s regulations is fiscally incidental. But the AHCA’s tax credits don’t have to be structured that way.

The bill itself contains a model for how to make repealing insurance regulations more relevant to the budget. Section 202 of the AHCA contains a transitional schedule of tax credits that would apply only in 2018 and 2019. These tax credits vary by both age and income, and they are set up so that they cap Americans’ exposure to high premiums.

Take a childless 40-year-old making $25,000. Under Section 202, he would be expected to pay 6.3% of his income—roughly $1,500—for out-of-pocket premiums. The tax credit covers the rest. So if he buys a policy that costs $5,000 a year, the tax credit would be $3,500.

If the AHCA’s long-term tax credits for 2020 and beyond were structured more like Section 202’s, repealing more of ObamaCare’s insurance regulations would, in fact, be relevant to the budget. That’s because rolling back regulations would lower premiums, resulting in smaller tax credits.