I fully expected that Republicans would lie about this morning’s CBO report about the effect of the Senate health care bill on insurance premiums. I didn’t think it would happen so fast.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, just said on the Senate floor that the CBO report shows that the Senate bill would “increase premiums for American families.” That’s vague enough that it could technically not be a total lie – how many American families? 1? 100? 1,000? – but McConnell went even further:

After 2,074 pages, trillions of dollars in new government spending, massive taxes and a half-trillion dollars in cuts to Medicare, most people, Mr. President, most people will see their insurance premiums go up. This is not what the American people were asking for, and it’s certainly not reform.

There’s nothing to call this but a flat-out lie. For 83% of the insurance market in employer and small-group policies, premiums would either not change or go down slightly, according to the CBO analysis. The only way to show that the other 17% on the individual market would see an increase in premiums is if you ignore the coverage subsidies that nearly 60% of all people in that market would be eligible to receive. Those coverage subsidies would reduce premiums 56-59% lower than current law for those individuals.

So, if by “most people” McConnell means the 10% of all Americans purchasing insurance who may (or may not) see a modest increase based on being able to buy better, more comprehensive coverage, then yes, that would be “most people.”

To be clear, the Senate could make coverage more affordable, but this CBO analysis, representing the worst-case scenario of the worst-case bill, shows that premiums would be lower relative to the status quo.

UPDATE: Harry Reid responds:

“One of the reasons that the Senate has made health insurance reform a top priority is because of skyrocketing health insurance premiums that are breaking the backs of American families. The most recent analysis that we received from the CBO today strengthens our belief that the Senate reform proposal will bring security and stability to American families and will stem the tide of rising premiums.”

“Most Americans will see lower premiums as a direct result of reform. In addition, small businesses would see a reduction in premiums for their employees because of the tax credits included in the Senate proposal. Today’s analysis confirms that millions of Americans who lack the necessary coverage to avoid potential financial ruin would have access to more coverage at an affordable price because of our proposal.”

David Dayen

David Dayen