Senate GOP weighing penalties for uninsured in healthcare bill: report

Senate GOP weighing penalties for uninsured in healthcare bill: report
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans are mulling over a provision to their healthcare overhaul measure that could bar Americans from purchasing insurance on the individual market for six months if they don't maintain continuous coverage, Vox reported Saturday.

The provision would address concerns over the bill's current lack of penalties for those who choose not to purchase insurance, and could be introduced as soon as Monday, according to the report.

The Senate bill prohibits insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions. But without penalties that would otherwise encourage healthy people to buy insurance, the bill could lead to a system in which only the sickest people purchase coverage, leading to staggering insurance premiums, Vox noted.

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Under the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, Americans who don't purchase health insurance are subject to a fine.

The addition of the six-month waiting period to Senate's Better Care Act, however, could make it more difficult for Republicans in the chamber to pass the measure with the budget reconciliation process.

That process limits what policies can be included in the legislation, and the waiting period could be among the restricted provisions, Vox reports.

Budget reconciliation would allow Senate Republicans to pass their healthcare overhaul with only 50 votes, as opposed to the 60 required for normal legislation, allowing the GOP to avoid a Democratic filibuster. 

Republicans hold a 52-seat majority in the chamber and five GOP members have said that they cannot vote for the bill in its current form.