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Senate Tax Reform Bill Bumps Obamacare Mandate

By Jack O'Brien  
   December 04, 2017

Republicans on Capitol Hill aim to enact major tax and healthcare reforms by year’s end.

After several attempts to pass healthcare reform failed earlier this year in Congress, Republicans in the Senate passed a tax bill early Saturday that includes significant changes to the existing healthcare system.

The most prominent change to healthcare is the repeal of the individual mandate that Americans obtain health insurance or face a penalty. Currently, those without insurance must pay a $695 fine or 2.5% of their income, whichever is larger. The provision is one of the most crucial and controversial aspects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly called “Obamacare.”

Senators justified including the mandate’s repeal in the tax reform bill by citing Chief Justice John Robert’s majority opinion in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius. In the 2012 case, which upheld most aspects of the ACA, the Supreme Court interpreted the mandate as a valid provision authorized by Congress’s power to lay and collect taxes.

Political observers and healthcare industry stakeholders immediately began to examine the potential implications of the proposed changes. The ACA, through numerous legislative and judicial challenges, has been the nation’s predominant healthcare policy since its passage in 2010. More than 20 million Americans have gained health coverage.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a revised estimate Monday on the impact of repealing the individual mandate. Federal budget deficits would decrease by $338 billion from 2018 to 2027, while 13 million people would lose their health insurance coverage, the CBO said.

The estimates also revealed a stable forecast for insurance companies in most areas of the country for the next decade as well as a 10% increase in premium costs per year through 2027. The CBO stated the reduction of the penalty while maintaining the individual mandate would yield similar results.

Jack O'Brien is an associate editor at HealthLeaders. 


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