On Monday, June 26, 2017, it finally happened: the event all of America has been awaiting, for months now, with bated breath. The second the news dropped, memes flooded the information superhighway; our social media feeds almost instantaneously became clogged with hot takes and longform commentary. No, I’m not talking about your favorite rapper’s hot new summer album—I’m referring to the CBO score for the Senate health bill.
Already lost? OK, let’s rewind. Pretty much since the 2010 passage of the Affordable Care Act, GOP Congresspeople have been trying to get rid of it. After Trump was inaugurated in January, they finally got their chance, and they took it: despite record-high levels of support for the ACA, the House quickly and narrowly passed the American Health Care Act on May 4—so quickly that, at the time of the vote, many Congresspeople weren’t even sure what was in the text of the bill! Shortly after, the Congressional Budget Office released their report on the effects of the AHCA, and it wasn’t pretty: according to their report, 14 million Americans would lose coverage under the AHCA in 2018 alone.
When it comes to determining the effects of a bill on the general populace, the CBO report is taken pretty seriously: it is treated as a pretty objective, reliable, non-partisan indicator of what may come. So when the AHCA moved to the Senate for reconciliation and debate, lawmakers and activists demanded that, this time around, no vote be held without a CBO score for the Senate version of the bill.
Well, here it is, a scant four days after the text of the bill was released (which itself marked the culmination of a drafting process so long and secretive that even many Senate Republicans didn’t know what was going on). And once again, the picture is pretty gruesome: after a long and grueling revision process that was ostensibly supposed to assuage such concerns, the report projects that even the modified version of the AHCA would leave 22 million more Americans uninsured by 2026. And that’s not even getting into the countless other insidious vagaries of the bill—such as its reinstatement of pre-ACA lifetime benefit caps, which could (for example) force cancer patients to stop treatment in the middle of chemo.
Fortunately, the response has been swift, uncompromising, and bipartisan: this bill is a dangerous disaster—and it must not be allowed to pass.
So what can we do?