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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Tax Bill’s Sneak Attack on Health Care for Millions

The latest version of the partisan tax bill that Republican leadership is working to rush through Congress presents new dangers to health care and health insurance for millions of families in America. 

To finance $338 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations, President Trump’s allies in the Senate have just proposed to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual coverage requirement.

Without that requirement, also known as the “individual mandate,” many healthy people, facing other financial pressures, would remain uninsured. Average costs per insured person would rise, and fewer insurers would offer coverage. 

That is why hospitals, doctors, and the insurance industry warn that this step would destabilize already fragile insurance markets, endangering health care for millions of Americans. 

Read our fact sheet about why the individual mandate helps keep coverage affordable and available.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that eliminating the individual coverage requirement would raise premiums 10 percent above levels charged under current law. That would be the functional equivalent of a significant tax increase for millions of Americans who buy their own insurance without federal financial assistance.

13 million people would lose their health insurance

CBO also found that ending the individual coverage requirement in 2019 and the resulting premium increases would lead to 4 million more people becoming uninsured immediately, with 13 million losing coverage by 2025. The resulting savings on federal health care programs would help Congress finance trillions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy.  

This new proposal makes a terrible tax bill even worse. Like earlier partisan attempts to repeal the ACA, this tax legislation is being rushed through Congress using streamlined procedures that shorten debate and permit passage on a straight party-line vote. Once again, President Trump and his congressional allies hope to enact a radical proposal that makes major changes to the U.S. economy before their constituents can figure out how they would be affected. 

Even without the repeal of the individual mandate, the tax bill threatens health care

Even with all of its tax increases on working people and assaults on health coverage, this partisan rush-job of a bill would still explode the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion. In a familiar dance sometimes called the “Starve-the-Beast Two-Step,” legislators who massively increase the federal debt through this reckless tax cut bill would soon use that very increase as an excuse to slash Medicaid, Medicare, and ACA financial assistance that helps working people buy private health insurance.  

Congress needs to go back to the drawing board. It’s time for them to enact bipartisan legislation that helps all of America’s families, like the Alexander-Murray bill, instead of rushing through a tax bill, on a straight party-line vote, that rips away health insurance from working people to shower enormous windfalls on a tiny sliver of those at the very top of the heap.