Health groups urge Congress not to repeal ObamaCare mandate

Health groups urge Congress not to repeal ObamaCare mandate
© Greg Nash

A coalition of health-care groups is calling on House and Senate leaders not to repeal ObamaCare’s individual mandate as part of the GOP tax-reform bill.

Hospitals, doctors and insurers urged Congress in a letter sent Tuesday to keep the individual mandate “unless and until Congress can enact a package of reforms to adequately assure a balanced risk pool and prevent extraordinary premium increases.”

The letter was sent by some of the top health groups in the country: America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and the Federation of American Hospitals.

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The groups argued that “repealing the individual mandate without a workable alternative will reduce enrollment, further destabilizing an already fragile individual and small group health insurance market on which more than 10 million Americans rely.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP moves to cut debate time for Trump nominees McConnell hits back at 'ridiculous' Chinaperson remark GOP senator: 'We were there' on immigration before talks got derailed MORE (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday afternoon that the Senate tax bill will include language to repeal ObamaCare’s individual mandate.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneRepublicans want Trump’s VA nominee to withdraw Senators debate new business deduction, debt in tax law hearing House, Senate GOP compete for cash MORE (S.D.), the Senate's No. 3 Republican, told reporters there has been a whip count and he was confident Republicans could pass a tax bill that includes a measure to repeal the mandate.

Thune also said there was an agreement to pass a bipartisan market stabilization bill from Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderGOP moves to cut debate time for Trump nominees The student loan crisis: Congress and the private sector must go all in, now Senate Health panel approves opioid bill MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: Trump's VA pick on the ropes | White House signals it will fight for nominee | Senate panel approves opioid bill | FDA cracking down on e-cig sales to kids Trump's nominee for the VA is on the ropes Senate Health panel approves opioid bill MORE (D-Wash.) alongside the tax bill.

The goal would be to mitigate the negative impacts from repealing the ObamaCare requirement that everyone buy insurance or pay a penalty.

The Alexander-Murray legislation would fund two years of cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers, which the Trump administration stopped making last month. It would also broaden waivers to let states change certain ObamaCare requirements.

All of the groups that sent the letter Tuesday also endorsed the Alexander-Murray legislation. AHIP declined to comment if that legislation would satisfy the demands laid out in their letter.