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Congress repeals ObamaCare mandate, fulfilling longtime GOP goal

Congress repeals ObamaCare mandate, fulfilling longtime GOP goal
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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 TrumpLil Wayne gets 11th hour Trump pardon Trump grants clemency to more than 100 people, including Bannon Trump expected to pardon Bannon: reports 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.

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“When the individual mandate is being repealed that means ObamaCare is being repealed,” Trump said during a Cabinet meeting at the White House on Wednesday.
 
“We have essentially repealed ObamaCare, and we will come up with something much better," Trump added, saying block grants might be one approach.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 RyanRevising the pardon power — let the Speaker and Congress have voices Paul Ryan will attend Biden's inauguration COVID-19 relief bill: A promising first act for immigration reform 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 CottonTom Bryant CottonBiden pick for Pentagon cruises through confirmation hearing GOP senator questions constitutionality of an impeachment trial after Trump leaves office GOP senators wrestle with purging Trump from party 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 BarrassoMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Georgia keeps Senate agenda in limbo Spending bill aims to reduce emissions, spur energy development 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 CollinsThe Memo: Biden prepares for sea of challenges Biden's minimum wage push faces uphill battle with GOP GOP senators wrestle with purging Trump from party 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 AlexanderLamar AlexanderCongress addressed surprise medical bills, but the issue is not resolved Trump renominates Judy Shelton in last-ditch bid to reshape Fed Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (R-Tenn.) and Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayHawley pens op-ed to defend decision to object to electoral votes amid pushback Demolition at the Labor Department, too Hawley, Cruz face rising anger, possible censure MORE (D-Wash.) and her legislation with Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonGeorgia Senate races shatter spending records Georgia voters flood polls ahead of crucial Senate contests The Hill's Morning Report - Fearing defeat, Trump claims 'illegal' ballots 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 McConnellTrump has talked to associates about forming new political party: report McConnell, Schumer fail to cut power-sharing deal amid filibuster snag McConnell keeps GOP guessing on Trump impeachment 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.