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AP Photo/Eric Gay

Sen. Ted Cruz got some good news to take into today's White House lunch with President Trump and the other Republican senators: a Department of Health and Human Services analysis that says his insurance deregulation provision in the Senate health care bill would lower premiums, both for people in traditional Affordable Care Act plans and in less regulated plans that wouldn't meet its standards.

But that's almost the exact opposite of what most experts, as well as actuaries and the main health insurance trade groups, say would happen. Health care analysts and economists are criticizing the HHS report for being secretive about its assumptions, which are usually disclosed so outside experts can see how they arrived at their conclusions. They also note that HHS assumes huge premium increases under the current ACA, without explaining why.

The HHS analysis, first reported by the Washington Examiner, says Cruz's plan would reduce premiums substantially, even for people who buy policies that still meet the ACA's benefit requirements. It also says more people would sign up for coverage under Cruz's proposal.

By contrast, almost every independent analysis of the proposal has said it would lead to higher premiums and maybe even the dreaded insurance "death spiral." The insurance industry's leading trade group predicted "widespread adverse selection and unstable health insurance markets." The American Academy of Actuaries said premiums for ACA-compliant plans would soar.

Many health care economists say the HHS report is too incomplete to carry much weight.

One issue is that HHS said its assumptions about elasticity — how people react when the price of health insurance changes — are "proprietary." That's one reason the Kaiser Family Foundation's Larry Levitt says there's "nowhere near enough detail about the assumptions and methodology to evaluate this."

Health economists have been brutal about the methodological secrecy on Twitter:

In addition, Levitt notes that the HHS analysts "seem to be assuming that premiums under the ACA would skyrocket under current law, but it's not clear why."

Go deeper

Biden Cabinet confirmation schedule: When to watch hearings

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Jan. 16 in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

The first hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's Cabinet nominations begin on Tuesday, with testimony from his picks to lead the departments of State, Homeland and Defense.

Why it matters: It's been a slow start for a process that usually takes place days or weeks earlier for incoming presidents. The first slate of nominees will appear on Tuesday before a Republican-controlled Senate, but that will change once the new Democratic senators-elect from Georgia are sworn in.

Kamala Harris resigns from Senate seat ahead of inauguration

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Photo: Mason Trinca/Getty Images

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris submitted her resignation from her seat in the U.S. Senate on Monday, two days before she will be sworn into her new role.

What's next: California Gov. Gavin Newsom has selected California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to serve out the rest of Harris' term, which ends in 2022.

3 hours ago - World

Putin foe Navalny to be detained for 30 days after returning to Moscow

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Photo: Oleg Nikishin/Epsilon/Getty Images

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been ordered to remain in pre-trial detention for 30 days, following his arrest upon returning to Russia on Sunday for the first time since a failed assassination attempt last year.

Why it matters: The detention of Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and the most prominent domestic critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has already set off a chorus of condemnations from leaders in Europe and the U.S.