Congress repeals ObamaCare mandate, fulfilling longtime GOP goal

Congress repeals ObamaCare mandate, fulfilling longtime GOP goal
© Getty Images

The House followed the Senate on Wednesday in voting to repeal ObamaCare's individual insurance mandate, fulfilling a longtime GOP goal targeting the health-care law.

The repeal, which now heads to President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse expected to vote on omnibus Thursday afternoon House passes 'right to try' drug bill Spending bill rejects Trump’s proposed EPA cut MORE's desk, is the first major legislative victory for Republicans to strike down a provision of the law.

Gutting the mandate that Americans buy insurance or pay a tax penalty has been a target of Republicans in every iteration of their ObamaCare repeal bill this year.

The measure was ultimately included in the GOP's tax overhaul, which passed along party lines this week in the Republican-led House and Senate.

“When the individual mandate is being repealed that means ObamaCare is being repealed,” Trump said during a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Wednesday.
“We have essentially repealed ObamaCare, and we will come up with something much better," Trump added, saying block grants might be one approach.
During a House floor speech Tuesday, Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse Dem moves to force vote on bill protecting Mueller Collins: 'Extremely disappointing' ObamaCare fix left out of spending deal House poised to vote on .3T spending bill MORE (R-Wis.) cast the mandate repeal as "finally restoring the freedom to make your own health-care choices."
“By repealing the individual mandate at the heart of ObamaCare, we are giving back the freedom and the flexibility to buy the health care that's right for you and your family," he said.
The original House bill didn’t include the measure, but Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonProtecting American innovation Russian spy poisoning brings world powers closer to day of reckoning GOP senators see Tillerson ouster as the new normal MORE (R-Ark.) pushed the Senate to include a repeal of the mandate — a core element of former President Obama's signature health-care law — in their tax plan.

The move worked, and the final bill agreed to by GOP lawmakers in a conference committee eliminated the mandate.

Many health-care experts and industry groups expressed concern leading up to the final passage of the tax bill, saying repealing the mandate could hurt the stability of the ObamaCare markets, potentially causing premiums to rise and insurers to drop out of the health-care exchanges.

Without the mandate, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that 13 million fewer Americans will have health insurance in 2027 and premiums will rise 10 percent. But it also predicted individual insurance markets will remain stable “in almost all areas of the country throughout the coming decade.”

The individual mandate was included in ObamaCare in part to draw young and healthy people to sign up for insurance in the marketplaces as a way to offset the costs of older and sicker enrollees.

Still, not everyone agrees that the measure has worked as intended, with some saying the mandate hasn’t been as effective as originally thought to entice people to buy health insurance.

“Today, we're turning Obamacare from a mandatory program into a voluntary program and providing additional tax relief for the millions and millions of Americans who have chosen and will choose not to buy a government-mandated product that for them provides not the value that they want,” Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSenators target 'gag clauses' that hide potential savings on prescriptions USPTO needs to be forced to do its job and reject bad patents Senate Dems propose tax cut rollback to pay for infrastructure MORE (Wyo.), the No. 4 Senate Republican, told reporters on Tuesday.

Republicans voted this week to do away with the mandate after multiple attempts to kill the measure going back years failed, including a turn in front of the Supreme Court, which ruled that the mandate was constitutional in 2012.

On Trump’s first day in office, he signed an executive order broadly permitting agencies to scale back ObamaCare, leading some to wonder if the individual mandate would be weakened. But the Internal Revenue Service has since signaled it would enforce the penalty.

The repeal of the individual mandate provided more than $300 billion in savings for Republicans to use to help pay for the tax bill, the CBO estimated.

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCollins: 'Extremely disappointing' ObamaCare fix left out of spending deal Overnight Cybersecurity: Zuckerberg breaks silence on Cambridge Analytica | Senators grill DHS chief on election security | Omnibus to include election cyber funds | Bill would create 'bug bounty' for State GOP lawmakers blast Dems for opposing ObamaCare fix MORE (R-Maine) has aired concerns about repealing the mandate, saying she wished the tax bill left health care alone, while reiterating that she has never actually supported imposing the tax penalty for those going uninsured.

“Repealing the individual mandate without other health-care reforms will almost certainly lead to further increases in the cost of health insurance — premiums that are already too expensive under the [Affordable Care Act],” Collins said in a floor speech Monday where she announced her support for the tax bill.

But she’s consistently said she’s received assurances that leadership would support two bills she sees as helping offset the repeal: A measure to stabilize the insurance marketplaces from Sens. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care: What to expect in omnibus | HIV expert to head CDC | Sessions issues memo on death penalty for drug cases HIV expert named CDC director GOP lawmakers blast Dems for opposing ObamaCare fix MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurraySpending bill would double child care funding for low-income families Funding bill gives billion boost for NIH medical research Spending bill prevents employers from pocketing tips under tip-pooling rule MORE (D-Wash.) and her legislation with Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonSteyer brings his push to impeach Trump to town halls across the nation Overnight Defense: Senate sides with Trump on military role in Yemen | Dem vets push for new war authorization on Iraq anniversary | General says time isn't 'right' for space corps Senate sides with Trump on providing Saudi military support MORE (D-Fla.) to provide money to insurers to offset the cost of the chronically ill.

Alexander and Collins said in a joint statement after the House sent the tax bill to Trump’s desk on Wednesday that they had asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCollins: 'Extremely disappointing' ObamaCare fix left out of spending deal House poised to vote on .3T spending bill Budowsky: Stop Trump from firing Mueller MORE (R-Ky.) not to put their legislation in a short-term spending bill, saying they would instead offer it in a larger spending package in early 2018. 

Updated: 1:25 p.m.