A former Treasury Secretary and economic adviser for two past presidents said the Republican tax bill will kill at least 10,000 people every year.
Larry Summers, who was former President Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary and who served as an economic adviser to former President Barack Obama, used academic sources to come to the conclusion that in its current form, the tax overhaul proposed by Republicans would lead to at least 10,000 people dying due to a lack of health insurance.
In a Washington Post op-ed, Summers wrote that Senate Republicans’ tax bill, which repeals the Affordable Care Act’s individual health insurance mandate, would lead to thousands dying due to not being able to afford preventative healthcare. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that repealing the individual mandate would lead to as many as 13 million more Americans without health insurance (this would inevitably drive up premiums for everyone else, as the individual mandate keeps healthier people in the risk pool).
Summers cited a peer-reviewed study conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Urban Institute that found one death for every 830 people without health insurance. Another peer-reviewed study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that for every 176 people without health insurance, 176 people would die. Summers conservatively estimated that one out of every 1,000 people without health insurance would die, and compared that figure with the CBO’s estimate of how many would lose insurance to come to his conclusion.
“[M]y current judgment is that if anything, my claim that over an unspecified horizon ‘thousands would die’ takes too serene a view of the health consequences of the tax bill,” Summers wrote.
The Senate passed the tax bill at 2 AM early Saturday morning and passed it on party lines, without any Democratic senators having sufficient time to review the legislation, which was hundreds of pages long and only made available to them hours before the vote. The legislation passed along party lines, and now heads to conference committee, where Republicans from the House and Senate will continue to exclude Democrats in negotiating a final bill.
Matthew P. Robbins is a freelance economics contributor covering wages, budgets, and taxes. He lives in Chicago, Illinois with his husband and two cats.