HHS Analysis Finds Cruz Amendment Lowers Premiums, Boosts Enrollment
Sen. Ted Cruz plans to unveil to Senators at a White House meeting on Wednesday an analysis from the Department of Health and Human Services showing his healthcare Consumer Freedom amendment would lower costs and raise individual enrollment, including those considered "high risk."
The report comes as President Trump attempts to revive talks on a healthcare bill that has failed to garner the support of 50 GOP senators, in part because they fear any change in Obamacare will reduce coverage and raise premiums.
"One way or another, this amendment is going to lower premiums and make people better off," a source close to Cruz told the Washington Examiner.
The Congressional Budget Office, which said a previous version of the Senate healthcare bill would leave 22 million fewer Americans with insurance, has yet to release an analysis of the Cruz amendment, and Republicans had said they may rely on an analysis from Trump's HHS instead.
Cruz, R-Texas, authored an amendment that would allow insurers to sell plans that do not comply with Obamacare mandates if they offer plans that do.
The goal was to lower health insurance premiums and raise participation, but the plan has scared off moderate Republicans, who fear it will leave those with pre-existing conditions without affordable coverage. Critics, including within the insurance industry, have argued that it would disrupt the market by creating two different regulatory regimes, and driving up the cost of insurance for sicker Americans, putting coverage out of reach.
But according to the analysis, obtained by the Washington Examiner, the opposite is true.
According to HHS, those likely to sign up for Obamacare-compliant Silver plans, presumably those who are considered high risk, would pay on average $380 per month in 2024, down from $845 per month projected under current law.
Consumers who purchase plans outside of the Obamacare mandates would save even more money by 2024 and would pay $240 per month on average.
However, the HHS analysis is based on the assumption that non-Obamacare compliant plans would carry a $12,000 annual deductible.
Enrollment in the individual market would climb, according to HHS.
The HHS report says enrollment in health insurance under the individual market is expected to reach 13.9 million in 2024. Under the Consumer Freedom plan included in the Senate healthcare bill, 16.1 million would be enrolled by 2024. These numbers do not take into account Medicaid, which Obamacare expanded and the Senate healthcare bill would scale back.
Cruz last week agreed to alter the language in the amendment so that all consumers would be included in one risk pool.
Cruz originally backed a plan he authored with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, that would have created two insurance pools — one for high-risk consumers and another for everyone else. But in an effort to keep moderates on board, Republican leaders insisted on keeping Obamacare's single risk pool requirement, which lost Lee's vote.
Cruz's office asked HHS to analyze both the single risk pool plan and the plan with dual risk pools. Cruz believed GOP leaders would more likely use the single risk pool plan but wanted to "give conservatives the opportunity to continue to fight for an even stronger version of Consumer Freedom." a Cruz source said.
Now Cruz wants to convince lawmakers on both ends of the party's political spectrum that the plan saves money and helps enrollment.
"His goal is to make the case for why we need to continue to debate Consumer Freedom," a source close to Cruz told the Washington Examiner. "Both versions. The point is, which ever version you pick is going to be a win-win."
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