04:51 - Source: CNN
How does WH sell health care after new CBO score?

Story highlights

Senate Republicans don't like the House-passed health care bill, but they're stuck with it

CBO said 23 million fewer Americans would have health care under the bill than under Obamacare by 2026

(CNN) —  

The Congressional Budget Office released its highly anticipated score of the House Republican health care bill on Wednesday.

The reaction from Senate Republicans? We still don’t like the House bill.

Twenty-three million fewer Americans would be insured under the House GOP bill than under Obamacare by 2026, CBO said. And while average premiums would be lower than they would be under current law, largely for young and healthy individuals, many would have to pay more.

For some, overall health care costs would go up by even “thousands of dollars” for the so-called essential health benefits that are currently treated as mandated coverage under Obamacare, the CBO report stated.

More than two weeks after their colleagues in the House managed to pass a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare, Senate Republicans offered a tepid reaction – at best – to the CBO score.

Louisiana Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy, who has introduced a health care bill of his own in the Senate, said Wednesday that the House bill – known as the American Health Care Act – simply isn’t good enough.

“Congress’ focus must be to lower premiums with coverage which passes the ‘Jimmy Kimmel Test.’ The AHCA does not,” Cassidy said, a reference to the now-viral monologue from ABC late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel, in which he made an emotional plea for coverage of patients with pre-existing conditions. “I am working with Senate colleagues to do so.”

While he didn’t explicitly say what prompted it, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham – never one to mince words – wrote Wednesday on Twitter: “With today’s news, the ‘Collapse and Replace’ of Obamacare may prove to be the most effective path forward.”

The new CBO report offered analysis on a range of issues, including coverage, premiums and how much money the House bill would save. It should serve as an important reference point for Senate Republicans as they work behind the scenes to craft a health care proposal of their own.

But even before the CBO report was released on Wednesday, it was clear that there is little interest among senators in taking up the controversial House bill in its current form. Republican lawmakers in the upper chamber have publicly raised serious concerns about the loss of coverage under the House measure, as well as the hike in health care costs for the sick and the elderly.

And ideological divisions that plagued House Republicans have already emerged in the Senate – over issues like Medicaid expansion and protections for pre-existing conditions.

Because House Republicans chose to use the budget reconciliation process to move their health care bill, the Senate can pass the legislation with just 51 “yes” votes. But with just 52 Republicans in the Senate, there is almost no room for defections.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was frank on Wednesday about just how difficult it will be to pass a health care bill in the Senate.

“I don’t know how we get to 50 (votes) at the moment,” McConnell told Reuters. “But that’s the goal.”

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats used the CBO report to accuse their GOP colleagues of crafting an entirely partisan health care plan.

“Let’s be very clear: the principles behind Trumpcare in the House and Trumpcare in the all-male, closed-door, Senate Republican working group are the same,” Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate health committee, said in a statement. “That it’s fine for sick people and seniors to pay more for their care – that insurance companies should be able to sell people insurance that’s no better than snake oil – and that if people nationwide lose coverage altogether, that’s no problem.”

CNN’s Ted Barrett and Tami Luhby contributed to this report.