Senate GOP tax bill to include individual mandate repeal; healthcare groups urge Congress to reconsider

Senate Republicans now plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate in their tax overhaul package—and the healthcare industry isn’t happy about it.

"I'm pleased the Senate Finance Committee has accepted my proposal to repeal the Obamacare individual mandate in the tax legislation,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said in a statement following the GOP’s weekly policy lunch on Tuesday.

“Repealing the mandate pays for more tax cuts for working families and protects them from being fined by the IRS for not being able to afford insurance that Obamacare made unaffordable in the first place,” he continued, adding that the House should also include a repeal of the mandate in its tax bill.

Later, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, posted his modified mark of the bill that includes the individual mandate repeal.

“By scrapping this unpopular tax from an unworkable law, we not only ease the financial burdens already associated with the mandate, but also generate additional revenue to provide more tax relief to these individuals," Hatch said in a statement.

The decision comes on the heels of a tweet from President Donald Trump that urged GOP lawmakers to repeal the “unfair” and “highly unpopular” individual mandate, which requires Americans to maintain health insurance coverage or pay a tax penalty.

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Including a repeal of the mandate in tax legislation could help pay for some of the tax cuts Republicans want. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the savings will total $338 billion over 10 years.

But the CBO also said repealing the mandate would increase the number of uninsured individuals by 13 million and increase individual market premiums by 10% during most years of the coming decade.

Those findings are echoed in a letter that a coalition of healthcare industry groups sent to congressional leaders on Tuesday, which argued that repealing the mandate without a workable alternative will destabilize the already fragile individual marketplaces.

“There will be serious consequences if Congress simply repeals the mandate while leaving the insurance reforms in place: millions more will be uninsured or face higher premiums, challenging their ability to access the care they need,” the letter said.

Six healthcare trade groups authored the letter: the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Federation of American Hospitals.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include Sen. Hatch's statement and a link to the modified mark of the bill.