The health care bill pushed through recently by the U.S. House suffered a potentially crippling blow Wednesday when the Congressional Budget Office declared it would cause 23 million Americans to lose insurance coverage during the next decade.

It said in particular the plan would become too costly for many people, particularly older, sicker Americans who need it most.

But in the apparent ruins of the Affordable Health Care Act, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, sees an opening for the proposal that she’s been working on for months with a colleague from Louisiana, Republican Bill Cassidy.

The two GOP lawmakers “recently brought together a group of Republicans and Democrats to determine whether there is a bipartisan path forward on a new health care reform bill,” Collins said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

“I urge my colleagues to support the comprehensive ACA replacement plan Senator Cassidy and I introduced that will allow more Americans to obtain health insurance, preserve significant consumer protections, and help moderate the cost of health care,” she said.

The Cassidy-Collins bill would allow states to keep President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act exchanges if they want while providing more options for states that want alternatives.

“The goal of any ACA replacement should be to improve access to quality health care while providing consumers with more choices and restraining costs,” said Maine’s senior senator.

She bemoaned the number of people who would lose insurance under the House plan, backed by U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine. Collins pointed out that its “impact would disproportionately affect older, low-income Americans” who often wouldn’t be able to find affordable coverage.

Collins cited the example of a 64-year-old with an income of $26,500 whose out-of-pocket premium cost could soar in the House plan from $1,700 to as high as $16,100, an 850 percent increase.

Still, she said, major reforms are needed because the individual health insurance markets in many states are collapsing while 28 million Americans still lack coverage.

For Collins and Cassidy, the outcry over the nonpartisan budget office’s estimates may open the door for their long-shot bid to win over the Senate. So far, though, neither senator is among those chosen by the Republican leadership to work on a health care proposal that might fulfill the party’s promise to repeal and replace Obamacare.

One colleague a bipartisan plan might attract, independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine, said the CBO report “reaffirms what we all know about this bill: that it will not only leave tens of millions of people without health insurance, but that it will also drastically increase the costs of health care for working people in Maine – particularly those in rural areas.”

“This bill is going to hurt people across Maine, and I hope these numbers will help my colleagues realize how real people are going to be affected by this,” King said.

U.S Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat representing Maine’s 1st District, said Republicans “rammed a health care bill through the House without any analysis on how it would affect consumers” three weeks ago. Only now, she said, do GOP lawmakers who voted for it “know the actual consequences of their votes.”

Now that its true cost is known, she said, she hopes they will “denounce TrumpCare and urge their Senate colleagues to be more responsible with the health care of millions of Americans.”


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