Littwin: Meet the new CBO score — same as the old score

The much-anticipated CBO score is finally out for the latest iteration of Trumpcare, the one that passed the House three weeks ago without Paul Ryan bothering to wait for the Congressional Budget Office to complete its analysis. And, as it turns out, it’s great news for the one million Americans who wouldn’t lose their health care coverage under this plan.

Unfortunately, it’s not such great news for 23 million other Americans who would lose their coverage by 2026, including the 14 million who would lose theirs by next year.

OK, it’s not much of an improvement from the 24 million the CBO had predicted for an earlier version of  Trumpcare, the one the House couldn’t even bring to a vote because, well, it was just that bad. And it’s still a long way from Donald Trump’s promise that “everybody” would be covered under his Obamacare replacement. Instead, according to the CBO, when/if we get to 2026, we’d be 51 million people short of “everybody.”

If the news is bad for Trump and bad for Ryan and bad for America, it’s mixed for Senate Republicans, who weren’t going to pass the House version of the bill anyway, and may not — according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — pass any version of it. Even as the Gang of 13 — including Colorado’s own Cory Gardner —  meet in private to try to hash out a transparency-free bill that could semi-miraculously get through the Senate and then be approved by the House, McConnell said he couldn’t find the 50 necessary votes for passage.

Here’s a guess: They are probably buried somewhere in that big pile of 23 million (but not 24!) loser insurance policies. Or maybe the missing votes are hidden under that huge stack of money being stolen from Medicaid — $830 billion was the last number I saw — which would literally rob from the poor to underwrite tax cuts for the rich, not to mention result in kicking 14 million off the rolls.

No wonder Gardner has steadfastly refused to do any town halls, knowing all the questions he’d get about repealing or replacing Obamacare, the one issue that, as much as any, got him elected to the Senate. No wonder Mike Coffman — who once strongly declared his support for Trumpcare — has strongly backed away. As has been noted many times, the greatest achievement of the Trump administration has been to make Obamacare popular — far more popular, according to the polls, than any version of Trumpcare.

There was an interesting statistic I saw in a Pueblo Chieftain story about the impact of Trumpcare on Medicaid recipients in Pueblo County. According to numbers collected by the state, an average of 41 percent of county residents — a little more than 67,000 people — received Medicaid payments in the 2015-16 fiscal year. And maybe an even more interesting number is this: 75 percent of those Medicaid recipients were employed.

Pueblo was, of course, the big Colorado success story for Trump, who was the first Republican presidential candidate to win the county since Nixon in 1972. It was an extremely narrow victory and one that depended on many of those working class people now eligible for Medicaid who wouldn’t be eligible if Trumpcare — or, for that matter, Trump’s  phony budget —  were to pass. Among the losers in the Trump budget, by the way, are, yes, Medicaid, food stamps, opioid abuse, rural health care, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and — my personal favorite — heating assistance for the elderly. The list goes on. And on.

I think it’s safe to assume that McConnell’s pessimistic assessment on getting a health care reform bill passed is a way of preparing us for the fact that there won’t be a Senate bill to vote on. Breaking seven years of promises to repeal Obamacare is apparently a better Senate option than to actually have to stand behind a Republican replacement.

That would leave Trump and Republicans with an early legacy of legislative failure, despite the Rose Garden victory party, to compete with Trump’s continued battle with scandal. This is how bad it has gotten for Trump, who was even being trolled by the pope on the environment: He would much rather a bad CBO score command the headlines than the latest bombshell report on Russia from The New York Times or Washington Post.

The latest from the Times is that American spies had overheard senior Russian intelligence officials bragging last summer about how they could use Trump advisers to influence him. Those advisers? Michael Flynn, who would become Trump’s national security adviser until he was fired for lying about his contacts with the Russians, and Paul Manafort, who had not yet been fired as Trump campaign manager.

But, in any case, the Obamacare story won’t end here. For years, Republicans have been saying that Obamacare would falter under its own weight, and Trump, who keeps pronouncing Obamacare dead, has long said that’s his best option. And now, thanks to uncertainty about Obamacare’s future, insurance companies are pulling out of markets, meaning that if Congress doesn’t act, some Obamacare users will, in fact, end up without insurance. And we can guess who would be blamed.

If you can’t, just listen to John Thune, the third-ranking Senate Republican, telling The Los Angeles Times, “There clearly has to be a short-term solution. We have to do that. There’s got to be certainty in the marketplace. There has to be some certainty with the insurers.”

How would that be for irony — if instead of repeal and replace, Republicans ended up with retreat and (temporarily, anyway) rescue? It would promise to be nearly as humiliating as the next CBO score.

Photo by Yuya Tamai via Flickr: Creative Commons