Tax bill may kill Oba­macare man­date

The Columbus Dispatch - - Nation&world - By Jack Torry and Michael Dul­man Jes­sica Wehrman of the Dis­patch Wash­ing­ton Bureau and Re­porter Randy Lud­low con­trib­uted to this story. jtorry@dis­ @jack­torry1 mdul­

WASH­ING­TON — Repub­li­can Sen. Rob Port­man will sup­port scrap­ping an Oba­macare re­quire­ment that Amer­i­cans buy health in­sur­ance, a move that’s been added to the Se­nate GOP tax over­haul. End­ing the re­quire­ment would help fi­nance the pro­posal, but it could cause as many as 13 mil­lion peo­ple to drop their fed­er­ally sub­si­dized in­di­vid­ual in­sur­ance poli­cies.

In a con­fer­ence call with Ohio re­porters Tues­day, Port­man said there is “broad sup­port” among Se­nate Repub­li­cans to kill the so-called in­di­vid­ual man­date, which im­posed fines on those who do not buy in­sur­ance poli­cies through mar­ket­places es­tab­lished by the 2010 Af­ford­able Care Act.

Port­man and other Repub­li­cans on the Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee are ex­pected to end the man­date as part of their broader ef­fort to over­haul the fed­eral tax code, elim­i­nat­ing a num­ber of de­duc­tions and re­duc­ing cor­po­rate and in­di­vid­ual tax rates.

By killing the man­date, Repub­li­cans would save $338 bil­lion dur­ing the next decade as fewer Amer­i­cans re­ceive fed­eral sub­si­dies to buy their in­di­vid­ual poli­cies. But the GOP move pro­voked out­rage among Democrats, who say the Repub­li­cans are try­ing to un­der­cut Oba­macare af­ter con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans failed ear­lier this year to scrap the en­tire law.

The non­par­ti­san Con­gres­sional Bud­get Of­fice this month con­cluded that end­ing the man­date would lead to 13 mil­lion peo­ple drop­ping their in­sur­ance cov­er­age by 2027 while rais­ing pre­mi­ums for those buy­ing in­di­vid­ual poli­cies by an av­er­age of 10 per­cent.

The CBO re­port con­cluded that with­out the man­date to buy in­sur­ance, “health­ier peo­ple would be less likely to ob­tain in­sur­ance,” adding that “the re­sult­ing in­creases in pre­mi­ums would cause more peo­ple to not pur­chase in­sur­ance.”

Oba­macare ex­tended health in­sur­ance to mil­lions of those with­out cov­er­age by ex­pand­ing Med­i­caid — a joint fed­eral and state pro­gram that cov­ers health costs for low-in­come peo­ple — and pro­vid­ing fi­nan­cial help to mid­dle-in­come peo­ple to buy in­di­vid­ual poli­cies through the mar­ket­places set up by the law. The law forced peo­ple to buy those poli­cies or face a fine.

“Tax re­form should be about cut­ting taxes for work­ing fam­i­lies, not rais­ing the cost of their health in­sur­ance,” said Sen. Sher­rod Brown, D-Ohio, a mem­ber of the fi­nance com­mit­tee.

Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, called the Repub­li­can de­ci­sion “a dis­grace,” tweet­ing that “the GOP’s tax scheme con­tin­ues to find new ways to harm the most vul­ner­a­ble.”

But Repub­li­can sen­a­tors are ham­pered by rules that their tax bill can­not add more than $1.5 tril­lion to the na­tion’s pub­licly held debt dur­ing the next decade. By killing the man­date, they can use the sav­ings to fi­nance more-ro­bust tax cuts.

In a re­lated de­vel­op­ment, Ohio State Univer­sity Pres­i­dent Dr. Michael V. Drake warned law­mak­ers that in­creas­ing the stan­dard de­duc­tion to $24,000 for a mar­ried cou­ple could cost uni­ver­si­ties mil­lions of dol­lars in do­na­tions.

In a let­ter to the Ohio con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion, Drake said in­creas­ing the stan­dard de­duc­tion would re­duce the num­ber of tax­pay­ers who item­ize, “sig­nif­i­cantly low­er­ing the value of the char­i­ta­ble de­duc­tion.”

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