Senate Republicans’ tax bill scraps ACA’s insurance mandate

Nov. 15 (UPI) — The Senate’s proposed tax reform bill now includes scrapping the requirement that all uninsured Americans purchase coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Senate finance committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, released the newest details of the plan late Tuesday, saying, “we not only ease the financial burdens already associated with the mandate, but also generate additional revenue to provide more tax relief to individuals.”

Under the Senate’s version of the bill, the tax changes for individuals expire in 2025, although modifications for businesses are permanent.

This week, President Donald Trump called on Congress to include the mandate in its tax overhaul. The Senate’s version accomplishes the GOP’s goal of ending the mandate by 2019, as well as further lowering some of the individual tax rates.

Still under discussion, though, are the fate of child tax credit figures, 529 savings plans for children born before 2026 and other features that would need to be reconciled with House version of the legislation, which currently does not address the ACA mandate.

The plan to de-penalize the least popular aspect of the health law was discussed earlier Tuesday at a closed-door lunch of Republican senators, where no lawmaker opposed the idea.

Hatch said the changes would allow deeper cuts to individual tax rates — to 22 percent, 24 percent and 32 percent — since abolishing the mandate would free up billions of dollars that could pay for other tax breaks.

A number of tax cuts for individuals would become temporary under the revised plan.

Allowing individual provisions to eventually expire would reduce the overall cost of the bill, which is required to add no more than $1.5 trillion to the deficit over 10 years and no addition afterward. The plan also denies a deduction for businesses related to sexual harassment settlements that involve non-disclosure agreements, as well as other features.

“We’ve been looking at for some time as a potential solution for some of the challenges that we’re facing in trying to make the bill do the things we’re trying to accomplish,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said.

Loss of the mandate would save over $300 billion over 10 years, but would leave one million Americans without health insurance in the first years and 13 million by 2027, the Congressional Budget Office said in an analysis this month. It could also win the support of the GOP’s most conservative senators and ensure approval in a Senate vote along party lines.

A separate bill that could fund part of the ACA program has been released by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Alexander said if the mandate is cut to a cost of zero, “Republican support for the Alexander-Murray bill will be very strong.”

The Senate is expected to continue debating the issue through next week.


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