Republican senators have been huddling in hopes of reviving their Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reminded them Thursday of why the bill should, on the contrary, stay dead.

Congress’ scorekeepers found that the latest version of the Senate bill would result in 22 million more people without health coverage by 2026. That is true even after the CBO accounted for $70 billion in new funds meant to stabilize health-insurance markets by driving down premiums and other costs.

A major driver of the projected coverage loss is a 26 percent cut to Medicaid by 2026. The shrinking of Medicaid would continue, with bad consequences not spelled out, after 2026.

Americans who would have gotten Medicaid coverage could try to obtain private health insurance, and they would get some federal help. But the Republican plan is so stingy, the individual insurance market would not provide reasonable options to low-income and older people. Premiums for most older people would rise. Premiums would also climb for anyone trying to buy comprehensive coverage meeting the current Obamacare standard. People would instead be pushed into coverage that picked up fewer medical costs. Though premiums for those plans would be lower for some people, they would also come with far higher deductibles that would make insurance virtually unusable for many. The benchmark deductible would equal half the income of someone making $26,500, as opposed to 3 percent under current law. Unsurprisingly, the CBO concluded that many low-income people would not bother to buy insurance.

The CBO concluded all of this without even considering one of the most destructive ideas that could find its way into any final legislation, an amendment pushed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. The proposal would allow healthy people to buy cheap plans that covered relatively little; less healthy people would be left buying expensive plans that covered what they needed but with premiums that would likely spin out of control. No senator should support a bill containing the Cruz amendment without hearing from the CBO on its likely effects.

Republicans are considering yet another option: partially repealing Obamacare with no replacement. The CBO released an analysis of this idea on Wednesday, projecting that 32 million people would lose insurance by 2026 as the individual insurance market descended into chaos.

If the GOP-majority Congress passed any of these plans, the numbers would no longer be politically inconvenient figures on a page. They would be a painful reality that Republicans imposed on the country, all so they could keep an irresponsible campaign promise.

Editorial by The Washington Post


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