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Congress analysts: 24 million people to lose healthcare coverage under GOP Obamacare replacement bill

Millions of people stand to lose coverage by next year under the Republican's reformed healthcare bill, according to Congress' budget office. The report says the number of uninsured would rise to 52 million by 2026.

Republicans suffered a major blow on Monday as the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) published a damning projection of the American Health Care Act, the GOP's plan to repeal and replace Barack Obama's flagship healthcare plan.

The Republican plan, which was unveiled last week and is currently being considered in the House of Representatives, would see around 14 million fewer Americans with healthcare coverage by next year, according to the CBO, Congress' nonpartisan budget analysis office.

"In 2018, 14 million more people would be uninsured under the legislation than under current law," the CBO said in its cost-estimate report.

The office also estimated that 52 million people would be uninsured by the year 2026 under the GOP bill, compared to the projected 28 million that would be without coverage if Obama's Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as "Obamacare") remained unchanged.

The highly-anticipated report could prove to be a major blow to US President Donald Trump's first major legislative initiative. The CBO findings are also likely to fuel opponents of the American Health Care Act, including Democrats, Republicans from states that have benefitted under Obamacare and corners of the healthcare industry.

While two House of Representative committees have approved the necessary legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the CBO's findings could make the GOP's bill a harder sell in Congress.

However, in more welcoming news to Republicans and US President Donald Trump, the CBO also estimated that the new House bill would lower the federal deficit by a net $337 billion between 2017 and 2026.

Leading Republicans defend GOP healthcare bill

Despite the CBO's damning coverage projection, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan quickly came out in support of the plan, saying his focus was on lowering premiums and improving "access to quality, affordable care."

"I recognize and appreciate concerns about making sure people have access to coverage," Ryan said. "Under Obamacare, we have seen how government-mandated coverage does not equal access to care, and now the law is collapsing."

According to the CBO's estimates, premiums would rise 15 to 20 percent in 2018 and 2019 due to fewer healthy people signing up after lawmakers repeal Obamacare penalties for declining to obtain insurance. However, those hikes would be offset after 2020 on the back of a $100 billion fund allocated to states and deregulation in the insurance market. 

US President Donald Trump, who has said his aim is to lower healthcare costs, voiced his support for the plan ahead of the CBO report. "The House bill to repeal and replace Obamacare will provide you and your fellow citizens with more choices - far more choices - at lower cost," Trump said at a White House meeting.

dm/bw (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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