Week ahead: Trump puts pressure on lawmakers to repeal ObamaCare mandate

Week ahead: Trump puts pressure on lawmakers to repeal ObamaCare mandate
© Greg Nash

The GOP debate over how to repeal ObamaCare is poised to heat up once again.

Republicans are divided over including a provision to repeal ObamaCare's individual mandate as part of their sweeping tax-reform bill, unveiled on Thursday.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyHow centrist Dems learned to stop worrying and love impeachment On The Money: Senate passes first spending package as shutdown looms | Treasury moves to roll back Obama rules on offshore tax deals | Trade deal talks manage to weather Trump impeachment storm White House talking new tax cuts with GOP MORE (R-Texas) said Friday that lawmakers are considering the move, which is being pushed by President Trump and others, but also expressed strong caution.

"There are pros and cons to this," Brady said at an event Friday hosted by Politico. "Importing health care into a tax-reform debate has consequences."

Brady and others have voiced concerns that reopening the contentious ObamaCare debate could sink tax reform, a top GOP priority.

The Ways and Means Committee will begin its markup of the tax bill on Monday, which will be a chance for lawmakers to offer amendments.

If a provision repealing the mandate is not offered in the House, though, it still could be added in the Senate.

Sen. Tom CottonThomas (Tom) Bryant CottonTom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Schumer concerned by Army's use of TikTok, other Chinese social media platforms Progressive freshmen jump into leadership PAC fundraising MORE (R-Ark.) has been leading the upper chamber's charge to repeal the mandate in tax legislation.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has found that repealing the mandate would save $416 billion over 10 years, because fewer insured people would mean the government would pay out less in subsidies. That could help provide needed offsets for tax cuts.  

But the flip side is that the CBO finds 15 million more people would be uninsured and premiums would rise 20 percent. The move could destabilize the health insurance market by removing an incentive for healthy people to enroll.

Separately, ObamaCare's sign-up period continues in the upcoming week. Trump administration officials have been largely silent on the period, not doing the outreach that the Obama administration did.

Acting Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Eric Hargan said this week that he wants the sign-ups to be as "consumer friendly" as possible.

"The dedicated public servants at HHS and in the states have put a great deal of work into preparing us for open enrollment season, and we are committed to making this year's enrollment as consumer friendly as possible," Hargan said.

The administration has cut back on advertising and outreach, though, which Democrats fear will depress enrollment.

On Capitol Hill, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday on new ways of making Medicare payments known as alternative payment models, which were set in motion by the "doc fix" bill that Congress passed in 2015.


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