As a vote on the American Healthcare Act (AHCA) looms in the Senate, cue the fear-mongering about those who will lose coverage.
Of course, concerns about lost coverage from Congressional Democrats only extend to those who will lose insurance obtained through Obamacare – not those who were told they’d be able to keep their plans, then lost them. Never mind the fact that the law only fueled skyrocketing healthcare costs and deductibles (that have gotten so high that many of the newly insured can barely even access their own health insurance).
We’re told that 23 million people will lose coverage if Obamacare is repealed – and then people will be dying in the streets (though somehow no one was dying in the streets before Obamacare existed).
BREAKING: CBO estimates 23 million people will lose health insurance over next 10 years under American Health Care Act
— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 24, 2017
— The Hill (@thehill) May 24, 2017
But is such a claim even remotely true? Only if you get creative in what it means to be insured.
As Townhall’s Guy Benson noted, This is deeply misleading, for reasons that we explained in detail when the CBO released its March analysis of the initial ACHA. In short, the large bulk of those who are said to be “losing” coverage do not currently have coverage. You cannot “lose” something that you don’t have. CBO assumes that these people would eventually gain coverage through the magical powers of Obamacare’s individual mandate (more on that in a moment), or through hypothetical future expansions of Medicaid by most of the states that haven’t done so to date. Current Medicaid beneficiaries, including those who’ve gained (very flawed) coverage under Obamacare’s expansion, are grandfathered in under the House GOP proposal. It also bakes into these new numbers a slew of empirically-incorrect projections that have been disproven by actual data. When Obamacare first passed, CBO anticipated that by 2016, 21 million Americans would enroll in the law’s exchanges. When 2016 rolled around, the real number was just about 10 million. A massive miss. Remarkably, CBO relies on its revised 2016 “baseline” in its new calculations — but the 2016 baseline was also off by millions.
Here is the annual error in covered lives of the CBO 2016 and 2017 baseline. Shocking something so out of date can be used. pic.twitter.com/unHd1kXWxQ
— Daniel Clifton (@DanCliftonStrat) May 24, 2017
That’s the aforementioned magical thinking, and it’s indefensible when there’s real data available to plug into the calculations. So when you take away the people who already don’t have coverage under Obamacare but who CBO has decided would hypothetically do so in the years ahead, and substitute actual enrollment numbers for CBO’s outdated and disproven projections, only a few million of the “23 million” would actually lose existing coverage — and these people would receive tax credits to purchase new plans, many of which would cost less under the AHCA. We should also point out that millions who’d “lose” coverage would do so voluntarily, affirmatively choosing not to buy a product that the government is no longer forcing them to purchase.
So in other words, most of those “losing” coverage never had it in the first place, or were simply purchasing it because they were forced to. That’s hardly as scary as the headlines telling us that “under TrumpCare, tens of millions will go without healthcare.”