Bill to repeal health insurance tax gains steam in House

A bipartisan bill to help health insurance companies avoid fees under ObamaCare is now backed by a majority of House lawmakers, its sponsors announced Wednesday.

The bill would repeal an ObamaCare provision commonly called the “health insurance tax” (HIT), which charges insurers an annual fee to help pay for the healthcare law.

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Rep. Charles BoustanyCharles BoustanyDemocrats, Republicans must work together to advance health care Lobbying World Former GOP rep joins K Street lobbying firm Capitol Counsel MORE Jr. (R-La.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who introduced the bill in February, announced Wednesday that they have reached 218 co-sponsors, which they hope will quickly lead to a full House vote.

“I am proud to reach this important milestone and look forward to an expeditious consideration and passage of this important legislation through the House of Representatives,” Boustany wrote in a statement.

The bill has six Democratic co-sponsors: Patrick Murphy (Fla.), Collin Peterson (Minn.), Brad Ashford (Neb.), Julia BrownleyJulia BrownleyAntonio Sabato Jr. to run for Congress in California Dems react to Flynn's request for immunity: 'Where there's smoke, there's fire' Lawmakers press Mattis on Marines nude photo scandal MORE (Calif.) and Gwen Graham (Fla.). Murphy is running for Senate. 

The health insurance tax has been at the center of a years-long lobbying campaign by insurers and business groups, including a coalition called the Stop the HIT.

That organization, which was formed in 2011, is seizing on the bill's new momentum. Leaders of the Stop the HIT Coalition sent letters to House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerBoehner called Trump about signing government funding bill Ex-GOP rep jests he thought reporter's accidental text was a drunk text from Boehner Gowdy front-runner to be next Oversight chairman MORE (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Wednesday urging them to bring the bill up for a vote.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a member of the House leadership team, said in an interview Wednesday the bill should be considered the “sooner the better.”

“I think it would pass the House without a doubt. It’s one of those things that’s got a lot of bipartisan support to it,” Cole said, adding that he has not heard specific discussions among the leadership office about planning a vote.

“Reaching 218 co-sponsors is an important milestone that adds to the growing momentum in Congress to repeal the HIT,” the insurer trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, wrote in a statement. 

The tax, which costs a total of $145 billion, gradually increases during the rollout of the law. While individuals are not directly taxed, critics of the provision argue that insurers are forced to pass along the burden through higher premiums.

A similar measure was introduced in the Senate during the budget-drafting process earlier this month, co-sponsored by Sens. Orrin HatchOrrin HatchGOP talks of narrowing ‘blue-slip’ rule for judges Senator's photo spurs caption contest White House tells Congress it will renegotiate NAFTA MORE (R-Utah) and Pat RobertsPat RobertsSenate GOP defends writing its healthcare bill in private GOP senators on Comey firing: Where they stand We need more transparency — not less — when it comes to equal pay MORE (R-Kan.).

The legislation also reached 218 co-sponsors in 2012, before Republicans controlled both chambers of Congress.

“The overwhelming support to repeal the HIT shows that Congress agrees that America’s small businesses should not be burdened with yet another costly tax with no benefit to show for it,” Amanda Austin, vice president of public policy at the National Federation of Independent Business, added in a statement.

This post was updated at 3:54 p.m.