Report says bill leaves 51m uninsured in 2026

Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 23, 2017, following a Democratic policy luncheon.

The finding is a blow to arguments from House GOP leaders who managed to get their bill over the finish line by arguing that a last-minute addition of $8 billion would bolster protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

The report said the House bill - named the American Health Care Act - would reduce federal deficits by $119 billion over the next decade. Two budget office reports in March on initial versions of the bill projected that 24 million people would lose coverage, and that premiums would rise over the next two years but fall by 2026.

The report said that under Obama's law, the nation's health insurance market is expected to remain "stable in most areas" because federal subsidies to millions of consumers largely rise with premiums. That's slightly less than the $150 billion the office estimated in March.

"The CBO score on the Senate bill is going to be what counts", Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, said earlier Wednesday.

The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation says the reduction is mainly because the bill delays the repeal of the 0.9 percent payroll tax until 2023.

Even with fellow Republican President Trump touting the legislation from the White House, GOP House leaders had to cancel a vote on the original overhaul bill earlier this year, amid a lack of support.

But if the GOP fails to pass the bill before the break, it could be much more hard to find the time to do it, because the second half of the year is already packed with other important items on the GOP agenda, such as a 2018 budget, tax reform, an annual defense policy bill et al.

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Dig a little deeper and you'll find that under new version of the bill, according to the CBO report, even the positive notes - fewer people losing coverage, slightly lower premiums for some - are mostly pegged to the fact that "the insurance, on average, would pay for a smaller proportion of health costs".

Joseph Antos, a resident scholar at the libertarian American Enterprise Institute who specializes in health care, said the new estimate "is the same signal repeated", conveying that the changes congressional Republicans envision would cut the price of premiums and trim the deficit while leaving more Americans without insurance.

The report could give talking points to House Republicans for their bill, or to Democrats who voted unanimously against it.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday he does not yet know how Republicans will amass the votes needed to pass legislation now being crafted to dismantle Obamacare, but expressed some optimism on another top priority, overhauling the tax code. It comes three weeks after the House narrowly passed the legislation with only Republican votes, and serves as a starting point for Senate Republicans trying to craft their own version, which they say will be different.

That approach will leave McConnell, a conservative 75-year-old Kentuckian with a reputation as a dealmaker, a narrow path to win passage of these ambitious goals, which are also at the head of Republican President Donald Trump's policy agenda. In the event of a 50-50 tie, Republican Vice President Mike Pence would be called upon to cast a tie-breaking vote.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to Reuters during an interview in Washington, U.S., May 24, 2017. He says the report will likely show "the same grave consequences" as earlier analyses by the nonpartisan budget office.

That's because the House is waiting for the final audit from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office which will estimate the bill's impact.

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. arrives for a GOP caucus meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 23, 2017.

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