The CBO Destroyed the Entire GOP Argument for Repealing Obamacare

The report released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) was meant to outline what would happen if the American Health Care Act put forward by Republicans was passed. Because of that, the references to Obamacare were primarily about comparing the differences between the two approaches. But with one sentence, CBO destroyed the entire GOP argument for repealing Obamacare. Here’s the sentence:

In CBO and JCT’s assessment, however, the nongroup market would probably be stable in most areas under either current law or the legislation.”

They go on to explain why the nongroup market is stable under Obamacare:

Under current law, most subsidized enrollees purchasing health insurance coverage in the nongroup market are largely insulated from increases in premiums because their out-of-pocket payments for premiums are based on a percentage of their income; the government pays the difference. The subsidies to purchase coverage combined with the penalties paid by uninsured people stemming from the individual mandate are anticipated to cause sufficient demand for insurance by people with low health care expenditures for the market to be stable.

That is the exact opposite of what Republicans are saying in order to justify the need to repeal Obamacare. For example, here is the kind of thing that Trump has been tweeting regularly:

Last night, when even Brett Baier was surprised that Ryan was pleased with the CBO report, take a look at what the Speaker said:

After extolling the fact that their plan decimates Medicare, provides tax cuts and reduces the deficit, he suggests that — contrary to what CBO actually said — their plan stabilizes the nongroup market while it is collapsing under Obamacare.

What is actually happening is that seven years ago Republicans decided that they would try to make health care reform “Obama’s Waterloo” and did all they could to obstruct its passage. That included lying about things like death panels and socialized medicine. When their obstruction failed to prevent Obamacare from becoming law, they switched to other lies and exaggerations about things like job losses and pretending that millions of people had lost their health insurance. None of that turned out to be true either.

Now that Republicans have the possibility of actually repealing the law, they are in need of a rationale for why it is important to do so. They’ve pretty much settled on this idea that the nongroup market is just about to implode and they are the ones to stop that from happening with their repeal/replace bill. CBO completely undermined that argument.

Of course the CBO report only confirms something that many of us have known for a while. I was reminded of the fact that last December S&P issued a report on the stability of the nongroup market under Obamacare. They specifically addressed the premium increases that Republicans use to make their argument about an imminent collapse by suggesting that it was “a one-time pricing correction.” In an interesting convergence, Kevin Drum pointed out that the correction actually brought premiums in line with what CBO had been predicting all along.

While people of different political persuasions might feel differently about the tax cuts and deficit reduction that Ryan referred to, the idea that Republicans want to deprive 24 million people of their health insurance based on a lie about Obamacare’s imminent demise is completely indefensible.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.