GOP considers keeping ObamaCare tax in revised health bill

GOP considers keeping ObamaCare tax in revised health bill
© Greg Nash

Senate Republicans are considering dropping a tax break for the wealthy from their ObamaCare repeal bill as they seek to secure 50 votes for the legislation.

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPress: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Press: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment MORE (R-Tenn.) on Thursday said the bill would be changed to increase the subsidies that help lower-income people afford health insurance. The most likely way for that to happen is by keeping a 3.8 percent tax on investment income for high earners, Corker said. 

“We [want to] address the issue of ensuring lower-income citizens are in a position to buy plans that are actually provide them appropriate healthcare,” Corker said. To do that, “my sense is the 3.8 percent repeal will go away.”

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The repeal of the ObamaCare investment tax has fueled attacks from Democrats that the Republican bill is a giveaway to the wealthy that strips healthcare coverage from the poor. Keeping the tax could help defuse those attacks and win support from Republican moderates, though it could also spark a backlash from some conservatives.

Under the draft Senate bill, healthcare subsidies would be tied to the cheapest ObamaCare plans that cover about 58 percent of costs. Under current law, those same subsidies are tied to plans that cover about 70 percent of costs.

That means that, under the draft, people using subsidies to get insurance would either have to pay more in premiums to keep the plan they have now, or have a higher deductible to keep their premiums in line.

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump jumps into 2020 race The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by MAPRx — Trump jumps into 2020 race GOP frets about Trump's poll numbers MORE (R-Fla.) on Thursday said he was open to keeping the 3.8 percent tax. 

“My whole goal here is just to ensure that lower-income citizens on the exchange have the ability to purchase health insurance that provides them health care and the initial draft did not do that,” Corker said. 

Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynSanders says Juneteenth should be a national holiday Sanders says Juneteenth should be a national holiday GOP frets about Trump's poll numbers MORE (R-Texas) said removing the tax break is under consideration, but wouldn’t commit to a final decision.

“Nothing’s agreed until everything’s agreed,” Cornyn said. “When you’re operating with 50 votes and the vice president, everybody gets an equal say in the outcome, so we’re just proceeding carefully as we can.”