Se­nate GOP to add re­peal of ACA mandate into tax bill

Move frees up $300B, leads to 13M los­ing in­sur­ance.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - FROM PAGE ONE - By Marcy Gor­don

WASH­ING­TON — Se­nate Repub­li­can lead­ers are al­ter­ing their tax bill to in­clude a re­peal of the Af­ford­able Care Act’s in­di­vid­ual mandate, a ma­jor change as they now try to ac­com­plish two of their top do­mes­tic pri­or­i­ties in a sin­gle piece of leg­is­la­tion.

Party lead­ers said Tues­day their tax bill will in­clude a pro­vi­sion that would re­peal the in­di­vid­ual mandate, a part of the health care law that cre­ates penal­ties for Amer­i­cans who don’t have health in­sur­ance.

“We’re op­ti­mistic that in­sert­ing the in­di­vid­ual mandate re­peal would be help­ful,” Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, R-Ky., said Tues­day af­ter meet­ing with party mem­bers dur­ing a closed-door lunch.

Repub­li­cans had un­til Tues­day re­sisted mak­ing the change, wor­ried that in­ject­ing health care pol­i­tics would im­peril the tax bill. But many of their mem­bers have sup­ported ad­ding the re­peal, a move Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has pushed re­peat­edly as well.

Re­peal­ing the mandate would free up more than $300 bil­lion in gov­ern­ment fund­ing over the next decade, but it would also even­tu­ally lead to 13 mil­lion fewer peo­ple hav­ing health in­sur­ance, ac­cord­ing to projections from the Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chair­man of the Se­nate Repub­li­can Con­fer­ence and a mem­ber of the fi­nance com­mit­tee that is draft­ing the tax bill, said re­peal­ing the in­di­vid­ual mandate will al­low them to fur­ther cut taxes for mid­dle-in­come fam­i­lies.

“It’ll be dis­trib­uted in the form of mid­dle-in­come tax re­lief,” Thune said. “It will give us even more of an op­por­tu­nity to re­ally dis­trib­ute the re­lief to those mid­dle-in­come co­horts who could re­ally ben­e­fit from it.”

But the change could un­nerve less con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­can sen­a­tors, who voted against pre­vi­ous Se­nate ef­forts to re­peal large parts of the Af­ford­able Care Act.

Repub­li­cans ap­peared to give dif­fer­ing ex­pla­na­tions for what they would do with the ex­tra money gen­er­ated by re­peal­ing the in­di­vid­ual mandate.

McCon­nell, speak­ing later at an event hosted by the Wall Street Journal, said the re­peal would al­low them to en­sure cor­po­rate tax cuts re­main per­ma­nent and also to lower taxes for mid­dle-class fam­i­lies.

“It’s pretty ap­peal­ing to us, and it will be in the ver­sion that comes out of the fi­nance com­mit­tee this week,” McCon­nell said.

Trump has said the re­peal should be fo­cused on get­ting tax rates down for the wealthy, with any left­over go­ing to­ward cut­ting taxes for the mid­dle class.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Tues­day morn­ing he would in­tro­duce an amend­ment to the tax bill that would re­peal the in­di­vid­ual mandate and use the sav­ings to lower taxes for mid­dle-class fam­i­lies.

In ad­di­tion to re­peal­ing the in­di­vid­ual mandate, the up­dated tax bill could also likely in­clude a new bi­par­ti­san health care agree­ment re­cently reached by Sens. La­mar Alexan­der, R-Tenn., and Patty Mur­ray, D-Wash, ac­cord­ing to Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Su­san Collins, R-Maine.

That Mur­ray-Alexan­der agree­ment would fund fed­eral sub­si­dies used to help lower-in­come Amer­i­cans af­ford their health care.

The tax bills in the House and Se­nate would lower taxes for many Amer­i­cans, but non­par­ti­san an­a­lysts have con­cluded mil­lions would pay higher taxes, par­tic­u­larly if they lived in states such as New York, New Jer­sey and Cal­i­for­nia. Those analy­ses have also con­cluded the big­gest ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the bills would be cor­po­ra­tions and the very wealthy. The ad­di­tion of the mandate re­peal will again leave Repub­li­cans fac­ing their own treach­er­ous in­ter­nal di­vi­sions over health care. They spent much of the first eight months of the year try­ing to re­peal or roll back the Af­ford­able Care Act, Pres­i­dent Obama’s sig­na­ture leg­isla­tive achieve­ment. But they were re­peat­edly stymied by GOP de­fec­tions in the Se­nate, with a hand­ful of Repub­li­cans say­ing they wanted the changes to be ei­ther more sweep­ing or done in a bi­par­ti­san way.

Repub­li­cans con­trol just 52 votes of the 100-seat Se­nate, and so the de­fec­tion of three mem­bers would im­peril any changes to the bill. They are try­ing to pass the tax cut bill through a process known as rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, which means they only need a ma­jor­ity of sup­port to pass the bill.

House GOP lead­ers have said they would ex­plore whether to in­clude a re­peal of the in­di­vid­ual mandate in their ver­sion of the tax cut bill, but they have so far not made that change. They are hop­ing to vote on their ver­sion of the mea­sure as soon as Thurs­day.

The House and Se­nate must pass match­ing ver­sions of the tax cut bill in or­der for Trump to be able to sign them into law.

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