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Collins: Health-care fix will pass before tax bill

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsManchin wrestles with progressive backlash in West Virginia Conservatives bankrolled and dominated Kavanaugh confirmation media campaign The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Health care a top policy message in fall campaigns 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 AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senate blocks Dem measure on short-term health plans | Trump signs bill banning drug price 'gag clauses' | DOJ approves Aetna-CVS merger | Juul ramps up lobbying Trump signs bills banning drug pricing 'gag clauses' Senate defeats measure to overturn Trump expansion of non-ObamaCare plans MORE (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: House passes funding bill | Congress gets deal on opioids package | 80K people died in US from flu last winter Wilkie vows no 'inappropriate influence' at VA Dems push back on using federal funds to arm teachers 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 NelsonDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Election Countdown: Small-donor donations explode | Russian woman charged with midterm interference | Takeaways from North Dakota Senate debate | O'Rourke gives 'definitive no' to 2020 run | Dems hope Latino voters turn Arizona blue Election Countdown: Florida Senate fight resumes after hurricane | Cruz softens ObamaCare attacks | GOP worries Trump will lose suburban women | Latest Senate polls | Rep. Dave Brat gets Trump's 'total endorsement' | Dem candidates raise record B 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.”