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The GOP’s Latest Repeal Scheme: “Skinny Repeal”

“Skinny repeal” will take insurance away from 15 million people and raise costs 20 percent — and that’s just the beginning

(Nashville, Tennessee) Now that they’ve broken promises to their own voters by starting to debate repealing our health care, Senate Republicans are continuing their unprecedented, secret attempts to rip care away from millions. Their latest scheme is a classic bait and switch: market a new bill as “skinny repeal” to make it sound less sinister, write it in secret with no expert or public input, don’t show anyone the legislative text until the last minute, and wrangle 50 votes to get it to conference committee with the most radical anti-health care members in the Republican party. Once a bill is in conference committee, a small group of Senators and House members can work off the “mean” House-passed repeal plan to create a far worse bill, rewriting health care and one-sixth of the economy behind closed doors with no public input.

So-called “skinny repeal” will take coverage away from millions, raise costs, and put the insurance markets into a death spiral — and that’s before a conference committee makes it even worse.

Here is what CBO has said about it:

  • At minimum, 15 million Americans would lose coverage in 2018 – next year. This would be the biggest one-year increase in our nation’s history.

  • Premiums would go up by roughly 20 percent.

Not only does this repeal scheme fail to fix any of the claims Republicans use as the pretext for ACA repeal — like increasing premiums and insurer choice — it actually would increase uncertainty and make these problems far worse. The Congressional Budget Office says “skinny repeal” would lead to adverse selection in the individual market, causing “smaller reductions in coverage among older and less healthy people and larger reductions among younger and healthier people, thus increasing premiums in the nongroup market.”

Health care experts have slammed this idea as a disaster:

Atul Gawande, Harvard School of Public Health: “‘Skinny Repeal’ Is A Known Disaster.” “‘Skinny repeal’ is a known disaster. 1995: WA state repealed mandate; kept guaranteed issue. 1999: no insurers left.” [Tweet, 7/26/17]

Center For American Progress: “Skinny Repeal” Raises Premiums $1,238. [Center for American Progress, 7/25/17]

Larry Levitt, Kaiser Family Foundation: “20% Premium Spike And 15 Million Uninsured Increase.” “CBO on repealing the individual mandate (‘skinny repeal’): 20% premium spike and 15 million uninsured increase.” [Tweet, 7/25/17]

Josh Bevins, Economic Policy Institute: “Skinny Repeal” Would Bring System To “Almost Complete Collapse.” “But, [Josh Bevins, Research Director of the Economic Policy Institute] says, doing away with the mandates would bring the health-care system to ‘almost complete collapse.’ This is because letting people freely opt out of buying insurance creates prohibitive premiums for everyone else.” [QZ.com, 7/25/17]

Vox: “Repealing The Individual Mandate Risks Sending Obamacare’s Insurance Markets Into A Death Spiral.” “…repealing the individual mandate risks sending Obamacare’s insurance markets into a death spiral. Health insurers have long said that a compulsion for people to buy insurance is necessary in order for the law to work, after it required that insurers cover everyone and charge everyone the same premiums no matter their health.” [Vox, 7/25/17]

And Secretary Tom Price, in a moment of candor, revealed what this latest Mitch McConnell scheme is all about: pass a terrible bill, send it to another secret backroom filled with the most extreme anti-health care voices in their party, and then pass an even worse bill. A classic bait and switch. People deserve better than the lowest common denominator when it comes to their health care.

HHS Secretary Tom Price: Senate Republicans Need To Aim For The “Lowest Common Denominator.” “Senate Republicans need to aim for the ‘lowest common denominator’ to keep the Obamacare repeal and replacement drive alive, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told CNBC on Wednesday.” [CNBC, 7/26/17]