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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 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

U.S. sounds alarm on Ukraine

Conscripts line up at a Russian railway station yesterday before departing for Army service. Photo: Sergei Malgavko/TASS via Getty Images

The Biden administration is "deeply concerned" by new intelligence — detailed for Axios and other outlets — showing Russia stepping up preparations to invade Ukraine as soon as early 2022.

Why it matters: Most of this was known from public sources and satellite imagery, but the administration is sending a stronger signal by releasing specific details from the intelligence community.

12 hours ago - Economy & Business

CNN fires Chris Cuomo

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for CNN

CNN said Saturday evening it has fired one of its star anchors, Chris Cuomo, following new revelations from a legal review made by the company into Cuomo's involvement in the management of his brother's sexual harassment scandal.

Why it matters: Saturday's firing speaks to how much pressure CNN was under by employees and critics to address Cuomo's behavior.

Updated 13 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Electric car prices could go up before they come down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The secret to affordable electric vehicles is cheaper batteries. But after years of falling prices, battery costs are now headed in the wrong direction.

Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles — threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.