Initial Senate tax bill does not repeal ObamaCare mandate
The tax-reform bill that Senate Republicans are releasing Thursday does not repeal ObamaCare’s individual insurance mandate, though the provision could be added down the line, GOP senators said.
Senators leaving a briefing about the legislation said repealing the mandate is not in the initial text of the legislation, but cautioned that the issue is still under discussion.
“There’s been a lot of discussion on that and we’re looking at it very seriously,” Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) said, adding that the issue was discussed at Thursday’s meeting.
Hoeven said he personally supports repeal of the mandate.
An updated House tax-reform bill unveiled Thursday by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) also does not repeal the mandate.
Senate Republican leaders have been doing a whip count on repealing the ObamaCare penalty to see where support stands. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said lawmakers are taking a “hard look” at the issue.
Proponents of nixing the mandate say it is a way to save money that could help pay for tax cuts. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says mandate repeal would save $338 billion over 10 years.
But moderates like Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have expressed reluctance to repeal the mandate. Introducing the volatile issue of health care into the tax debate could made it harder to pass the bill.
Still, many Republican senators say they want the change.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) pushed for the idea when leaving the meeting on Thursday.
Cruz did not say how he would vote on the current bill, saying discussions are “ongoing.”
Repealing the mandate would result in 13 million more uninsured people over 10 years, according to the CBO, and could destabilize health insurance markets.