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Decoding Trump Administration Spin on CBO AHCA Cost Estimates

Be Skeptical of Mick Mulvaney’s Assertions About the Next AHCA CBO Score: He Misled the Public Last Time

By Mike Tanglis

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On May 4, 2017, the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act of 2017, moving closer to achieving a major priority of President Trump and congressional Republicans. The bill would “repeal and replace major parts of the Affordable Care Act,” including the Affordable Care Act’s “individual mandate,” which imposes a fine on those who do not procure health insurance.

At the time of its passage, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had not scored the version of thebill that was voted on. In other words, the bill “passed without legislators knowing how many people it would cover and how much it would cost,” as noted in Vox.

However, the CBO had issued a pair of reports analyzing earlier versions of the AHCA. Eachconcluded that the Republicans’ proposed replacement of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare,would result in 24 million fewer Americans having health insurance by 2026. Many blamed the first two CBO scores for the earlier version of the AHCA receiving an approval of only 17 percent of Americans in March.

The bill has changed since the original CBO scores. “The final version,” Vox’s Tara Golshan notes,“reduces taxes but will likely put millions of people at risk of losing their health insurance —including people with preexisting conditions, older Americans, and the poor — has not yet been evaluated by the CBO.”

A CBO score on the newly passed bill is expected soon. Because of the enormous stakes of the legislation, Republicans will likely make a strenuous effort to discredit the new score if it is unfavorable to their legislation, just as they did after the original report was issued.

Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney has numerous responsibilities and a seemingly growing base of power within the White House. OMB is responsible for the budget process, for moving rulemakings to protect the public (or slowing them), among other things. Mulvaney has been described as “the top Trump lieutenant on health care” and served as a point person for the administration in attempting to discredit the CBO report. For the most part, many of his statements went unchallenged, at least in television interviews. Next time should be different.

It is reasonable to believe Republicans in Congress and members of the Trump administration will use the similar language and arguments to rebut the new CBO score as they did with the original score. As a guide to possible future deceptions, this report deconstructs some of the selective, disingenuous and intellectually inconsistent arguments that Mulvaney put forth last time around.