GOP tar­gets Oba­macare pro­vi­sion in tax pack­age

Boston Herald - - NEWS -

WASH­ING­TON — Se­nate Repub­li­cans are in­tent on scrap­ping the Oba­macare re­quire­ment that Amer­i­cans get health in­sur­ance, tar­get­ing a re­peal of the in­di­vid­ual man­date to help fi­nance deep tax cuts in their tax over­haul.

The sur­prise re­vival yes­ter­day of the failed ef­fort to scrap the law’s man­date came a day af­ter Pres­i­dent Trump re­newed pres­sure on GOP law­mak­ers to in­clude the re­peal in their tax leg­is­la­tion. It has high po­lit­i­cal stakes for Trump, who lacks a ma­jor leg­isla­tive achieve­ment af­ter nearly 10 months in of­fice.

The move by Repub­li­cans on the Se­nate’s Fi­nance Com­mit­tee up­ended the de­bate over the tax mea­sure just as it was inch­ing closer to pas­sage af­ter months of fine-tun­ing and com­pro­mise.

It turned the de­bate into an an­gry par­ti­san ref­er­en­dum on health care and for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sig­na­ture law.

Repub­li­can ef­forts to dis­man­tle the law col­lapsed this past sum­mer as mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans joined with Democrats in re­ject­ing the re­peal — a bit­ter dis­ap­point­ment for Trump, who lashed out at the Se­nate GOP for fail­ing. Adding the re­peal of the man­date to the tax mea­sure would com­bine two of Trump’s leg­isla­tive pri­or­i­ties.

Be­yond Trump’s prod­ding, the re­peal move also was dic­tated by the Repub­li­cans’ need to find rev­enue sources for the tax-cut bill, which calls for steep re­duc­tions in the cor­po­rate tax rate and elim­i­na­tion of some pop­u­lar tax breaks.

“We are op­ti­mistic that in­sert­ing the in­di­vid­ual man­date re­peal would be help­ful; that’s ob­vi­ously the view of the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee Repub­li­cans,” Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., told re­porters.

The “Oba­macare” man­date re­quires most peo­ple to buy health in­sur­ance cov­er­age or face a fine.

With­out be­ing forced to get cov­er­age, fewer peo­ple would sign up for Med­i­caid or buy fed­er­ally sub­si­dized pri­vate in­sur­ance.

Tar­get­ing the man­date in the tax leg­is­la­tion would save an es­ti­mated $338 bil­lion over a decade, which could be used to help pay for the deep cuts.

The Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice has es­ti­mated re­peal­ing the re­quire­ment that peo­ple buy health cov­er­age would mean 4 mil­lion ad­di­tional unin­sured Amer­i­cans by 2019 and 13 mil­lion more by 2027.

It “will cause mil­lions to lose their health care and mil­lions more to lose their pre­mi­ums,” U.S. Sen. Ron Wy­den of Ore­gon, the se­nior Demo­crat on the Fi­nance Com­mit­tee, an­grily in­sisted when the panel re­con­vened to work on the tax bill and word came of the Repub­li­cans’ move on the man­date.

Feel­ing am­bushed with­out ad­vance no­tice, mi­nor­ity Democrats ex­ploded in anger.

The com­pleted House tax bill, pointed to­ward a vote in that cham­ber to­mor­row, does not cur­rently in­clude re­peal of the health in­sur­ance man­date. Trump plans an in-per­son ap­peal to House Repub­li­cans be­fore the vote.

AP PHOTO

AN­OTHER SHOT: Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell has tar­geted Oba­macare’s in­di­vid­ual man­date in the GOP tax plan.

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