The top Democrat in the Senate says his caucus won’t vote for a bipartisan Affordable Care Act stabilization bill if Republicans keep a provision in their tax plan that repeals the individual mandate.
“The Republicans cannot expect to pass their own, separate, ideological healthcare provision and then turn around and ask for Democratic votes to pass Alexander-Murray,” Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “Again, you can’t create major injury to the healthcare system and hurt millions and then say, 'Please give us a Band-Aid.'”
Schumer’s warning comes after Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Wednesday that it’s “likely” that the GOP will include funding for cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments in its year-end spending bill, The Hill reported.
Cornyn, the ranking Senate Republican, also said the ACA stabilization bill drafted by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., “has merit.” That legislation, which would fund CSR payments for two years and offer states more flexibility to shape their individual insurance markets, was tabled in part because of President Donald Trump’s failure to support it.
Securing funding for CSR payments—at least in the short term—would help shore up the fragile ACA marketplaces, where policy uncertainty has fueled rising premium and insurer exits.
But repealing the requirement that everyone must buy insurance would likely have the opposite effect, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s estimate and prominent healthcare trade groups. Both warned that the disappearance of the individual mandate will cause enrollment to drop and premiums to rise even further.
The House’s version of tax overhaul legislation, which does not include an individual mandate repeal, is expected to pass, according to the Associated Press. But the Senate’s version of the measure is less assured passage, as it can lose just GOP two votes and one Republican—Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson—has already come out against the measure.
Johnson’s quarrel is not with the individual mandate repeal, but with the fact that the tax legislation is more generous to publicly traded corporations than to pass-through entities.
Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service has begun to send letters to thousands of businesses informing them that they owe the government money for failing to offer health insurance to their employees, The New York Times reported. That’s significant because it represents the first time that the agency is enforcing the ACA’s employer mandate.