Collins: Health-care fix will pass before tax bill

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington Overnight Health Care: Novartis pulls back on drug price hikes | House Dems launch Medicare for All caucus | Trump officials pushing ahead on Medicaid work requirements Senate panel to vote next week on banning 'gag clauses' in pharmacy contracts MORE (R-Maine) said early Thursday that she expects legislation to lower health-care premiums to pass Congress before senators take a final vote on a $1.5 trillion tax-reform bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate.

Collins, speaking to reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, said it’s a mistake to scrap the individual mandate without making other reforms to the health-care system.

“When you take out that one provision from the ACA it causes premiums to go up as healthier, younger people leave the market place,” she said.

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Senate GOP leaders at the urging of conservatives have added to the tax package a provision that would repeal ObamaCare’s requirement that people purchase health coverage. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that could cause insurance premiums to rise and increase the number of uninsured by 13 million people by 2027.

To mitigate the impact, GOP leaders plan to pass legislation negotiated by Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderMontana governor raises profile ahead of potential 2020 bid Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Trump administration to explore importing prescription drugs MORE (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDems to propose legislation to prevent ICE from shackling pregnant women Top Dems urge Trump officials to reverse suspension of ObamaCare payments Dems launch pressure campaign over migrant families MORE (Wash.) that would reinstate cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies.

It will be paired with legislation sponsored by Collins and Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonHistory argues for Democratic Senate gains Polling analyst: Same Dems who voted for Gorsuch will vote for Kavanaugh Election security bill picks up new support in Senate MORE (D-Fla.) that would set up health reinsurance programs for older and sicker individuals.

The measures are likely to be attached to a government stopgap funding bill, Collins said.

“I have met with the president of the United States about this and have gotten his endorsement, I’ve met with the Republican leadership and with the members of the Finance Committee,” she said. “They are most likely to be on the continuing resolution."

“Assuming the tax bill passes the Senate, we then turn to the CR and those two bills will be put on the CR,” she said.

“While the tax bill is in conference, the CR will presumably become law and then the tax bill come back from conference,” she said. “So I’m going to know whether those provisions made it and that matters hugely to me.”