As both GOP tax bills are likely to pass before the end of the year, Senate Republicans have included a repeal of Obamacare’s Individual mandate to the latest version of the Senate bill.
Orrin Hatch, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, released the latest draft Tuesday night, which also eliminates the mandate’s fines starting in 2019.
“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. Eliminating 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,” writes Fox News.
By eliminating the fines this would “help provide additional relief to low- and middle-income families.”
Senate Republicans are attempting to kill two birds with one stone.
“They also have made a calculated gamble to help speed their bill to passage on a party-line vote: Republicans revealed late Tuesday they would set all of their tax cuts for individuals to expire at the end of 2025, to comply with a procedural requirement. Their deep cut in the corporate tax rate would remain permanent,” writes the New York Times. “Both the expiration decision and the move to tuck the repeal of the so-called individual mandate into the tax overhaul are attempts by Republicans to solve two problems: math and politics. Repealing the mandate, a longstanding Republican goal, would save hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade. That would free up money that is earmarked to expand middle-class tax cuts.”
Republicans believe this addition will make the tax bill much more attractive to those maybe on the fence.
John McCain was one of the three Republican senators to vote down the Obamacare repeal earlier this year, but he hasn’t hatchd that he is opposed to the Senate’s tax legislation with the health care addition.
“I want to see the whole package — it keeps changing as it goes through the House and Senate,” said McCain. “I want the regular order.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that Republicans are “optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful.”
However, some Republicans are concerned that adding the mandate repeal language to the bill could complicate things further.
“My concern is that if we combine the health care issues with tax reform, we make it far more controversial,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine.)
The House, on the other hand, has not included a repeal of the mandate in its bill, even though the chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina has introduced an amendment to do so.
After the Senate’s last-minute move Tuesday night, House Speaker Paul Ryan is getting even more pressure from the Republican Study Committee to add the repeal of the Obamacare mandate to the House bill.
“Adding the repeal of the individual mandate to tax reform could be the most consequential step this Congress takes to date in fulfilling our promises to the American people to both reform the tax code and repeal Obamacare,” said Walker. “It appears the Senate is keeping its promises. The House should do the same.”
Ryan agrees with Collins and doesn’t want to add the repeal provision because he doesn’t “want to needlessly complicate” the vote further. The vote is expected to take place Thursday.
Ryan pointed out the House already passed a health care bill that repeals the individual mandate back in May.
“Obviously, we’re in favor of repealing the individual mandate,” said Ryan. “But we didn’t want to needlessly complicate the passage of tax reform … So, we want to see the Senate go first and see if they can get that done and then we’ll discuss whether or not it gets included at the end [in conference].”
Author’s note: The repeal mandate being added to the Senate bill is one way to achieve a Republican goal sooner than later. But, it could also complicate things and create more tension in the chambers.