Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, responsible for regulating health insurance in the state, says he was shocked by the dire forecast released by the Congressional Budget Office on Monday predicting that 14 million people could lose health care coverage within the year under a Republican plan now moving through Congress.
“It is worse than what any of us had anticipated,” Kreidler, a Democrat, says.
The Brookings Institution had estimated than 15 million people would lose health insurance over the course of the next 10 years, but the nonpartisan CBO reported that nearly that many would be uninsured within the year if the plan becomes law; the CBO says 24 million could lose coverage over the next decade.
The CBO says the reasons for the drop in coverage are many. Some people are currently enrolled in a health insurance just to avoid paying the penalties associated with the individual mandate, and the GOP’s bill would abolish these penalties, allowing people to chose to go uncovered. But many others would be forced off insurance roles because of huge cuts to Medicaid and subsides that help low-income people get coverage.
The effects that the bill—which Democrats are dubbing Trumpcare—would have in Washington are still unclear. But Kreidler anticipates that it is going to be significant.
“We can see a very profound impact on next year’s market,” the commissioner says. “How many people will be directly impacted? We don’t know yet but we’re processing a large (amount of) data to see. Presuming that the mandate will go away and that we have a share of the 14 million of people losing health insurance by 2018, the numbers of people affected here are going to be significant.”
On Wednesday, Kreidler and Gov. Jay Inslee will do a press conference to share those numbers of how the bill will impact Medicaid in the Evergreen State.
The Affordable Care Act expanded access to Medicaid in Washington, where it is known as Apple Health. According to Apple Health, about 1.9 million of Washingtonians are currently enrolled in the federal-state program for low-income people, with almost 430,000 of them living in King County.
Kreidler says that the most vulnerable populations are low-income young Americans, senior citizens and people living in rural areas. At the same time, wealthy Americans will benefit from a $600 million tax break.
“This is really a case of Robin Hood in reverse,” he says. “This is robbing from the poor to give to the rich.”
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump’s administration is trying to undermine the credibility of the CBO report.
“We think that CBO simply has it wrong,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said in a news conference Monday.
The same day, Sean Spicer echoed Price’s criticism.
“The last time they did this, they were wildly off,” the White House press secretary said.
In 2009, CBO estimated than roughly eight million more Americans would be enrolled on Obamacare now than there actually are.
“That’s not a question of our credibility. It’s a question of theirs,” Spicer said.
But Kreidler thinks that the real reasons why Republicans are criticizing the CBO report because it undermines President Donald Trump’s promises of “insurance for everybody.”
“They realized that these numbers appear to be devastating to the argument that they were making,” the commissioner says. “They said they were not doing any harm, that they were covering everyone. Now they are backpedaling on what CBO is saying and pulling attacks for showing what the bill actually does. A lot of people are going to be hurt, and it’s not a picture that I can certainly describe in a positive way, certainly not for the economy.”