Dec 15, 2017 - Health Care

Budget office: Bipartisan ACA bill would save taxpayers $3.8 billion

Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray got good news from CBO. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The Congressional Budget Office delivered some good news to Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray: Their bill to stabilize the Affordable Care Act would save the government nearly $4 billion over the next decade.

Between the lines: To reach that conclusion, CBO had to settle a more in-the-weeds question that nevertheless carried dramatic implications for the entire ACA stabilization effort — and its answer there was also good news for Alexander and Murray.

What CBO said: The budget office had three pieces of good news for Alexander and Murray, and for the broader push to stabilize the ACA:

  • Their bill would save the federal government $3.8 billion over the next decade.
  • Although conservatives have decried the bill as an "insurer bailout," CBO expects that insurance companies would actually make payments to the federal government worth $3.1 billion. (That's because the government would get some of the rebates the ACA makes insurers pay to customers if they spend too much on overhead.)
  • The bill would save money, in large part, because CBO said its core provision — a commitment to fund the ACA's cost-sharing subsidies — wouldn't cost anything.

The issue: This is a wonky point, but a make-or-break one for the ACA stabilization effort.

  • Because the ACA's cost-sharing subsidies have been in place for years, CBO has already incorporated the cost of that program into its baseline of what the federal government spends each year.
  • But it wasn't clear whether CBO would change that assumption once President Trump stopped making the payments. If the money is no longer going out the door, would CBO keep counting it as money going out the door?
  • If CBO had changed those assumptions, Alexander-Murray could have come with a price tag of more than $20 billion.
  • But CBO didn't adjust its baselines around Trump's decision. It said it's still accounting for this program the same way it did before — and that keeps the "price" of Alexander-Murray's central provision at $0.

What's next

Bolton alleges in book that Trump tied Ukraine aid to investigations

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton alleges in his forthcoming book that the president explicitly told him "he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens," the New York Times first reported.

Why this matters: The revelations present a dramatic 11th hour turn in Trump's Senate impeachment trial. They directly contradict Trump's claim that he never tied the hold-up of Ukrainian aid to his demands for investigations into his political opponent Joe Biden.

Honoring Kobe Bryant: Sports stars, politicians and celebrities mourn NBA great

Kobe Bryant on court for the Los Angeles Lakers during the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest on All-Star Saturday Night, part of 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend at American Airlines Center in Dallas in February 2010. Photo: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Sports stars, politicians and celebrities paid tribute to NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a California helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others on Saturday. He was 41.

What they're saying: Lakers great Shaquille O'Neal said in an Instagram post of his former teammate, "There's no words to express the pain I'm going through now with this tragic and sad moment of losing my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie. I love you brother and you will be missed."

Go deeperArrow3 hours ago - Sports

What's next: Trump's broader travel ban

A sign for International Arrivals is shown at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Photo: Ted S. Warren/AP

President Trump is expected to announce an expanded travel ban this week, which would restrict immigration from seven additional countries — Nigeria, Myanmar, Sudan, Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan and Tanzania, per multiple reports.

  • The announcement would come on the third anniversary of Trump's original travel ban, which targeted Muslim-majority nations, per Axios' Stef Kight.