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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:

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.
A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

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

Updated 29 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.

Officials warn 5 key tech sectors will determine whether China overtakes U.S.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

U.S. intelligence officials responsible for protecting advanced technologies have narrowed their focus to five key sectors: artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, semiconductors and autonomous systems.

Why it matters: China and Russia are employing a variety of legal and illegal methods to undermine and overtake U.S. dominance in these critical industries, officials warned in a new paper. Their success will determine "whether America remains the world’s leading superpower or is eclipsed by strategic competitors."