On Wednesday, the Senate passed a procedural vote on the Republicans' tax reform bill, according to CNN, edging it closer to a final vote that's expected to take place by the end of the week. Ahead of the vote, Americans have a lot of questions about the bill, including whether the tax bill will affect health care. It's a very legitimate question given the fact that Republicans are seemingly obsessed with repealing the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) at every twist and turn. And, unfortunately, a dismantling of the ACA is a very real possibility if the tax reform bill passes.
Ever since President Donald Trump took office in January, Republicans have tried to repeal the ACA again and again. From the failed "skinny repeal" vote in July to South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy's dashed Graham-Cassidy bill in September, the Republicans have demonstrated that they're dead set on repealing the ACA, despite the fact that up to 10 million people would lose health insurance coverage as a result, according to Vox. Not mention ACA enrollment is up and is expected to break previous records, according to The Washington Post.
So, it should really come as no surprise that the tax reform bill has a condition that would eliminate a crucial component of the ACA, which is the individual mandate. The individual mandate requires the majority of Americans to purchase insurance, a provision that keeps insurance premiums low, according to Vox. If a person fails to buy insurance through the ACA, they're hit with a financial penalty come tax season. The individual mandate mostly affects healthy young people, according to The Hill, because a lot of young people don't want to spend money on insurance they don't think they need.
To put it simply, the individual mandate is what makes the ACA sustainable. The mandate keeps healthy and young people in the market, and without this demographic, insurance premiums would skyrocket by 10 percent every year, according to The New York Times. If insurance premiums rise, millions of people will lose coverage. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that 13 million people would lose health care coverage come 2027, according to Fortune. The number is staggering, and it demonstrates just how hurtful the tax bill could be to countless Americans — especially those Americans who rely on subsidies to get health care for their families.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren summed up the tax bill's health care component, saying, according to Mass Live:
... anyone who cares about health care in America now has a reason to fight against the Republican tax plan.
As for what Republicans get out of the individual mandate repeal: the CBO reported that the move would save the government $338 billion throughout the next 10 years, according to NPR. That money would go towards paying for the bill's proposed tax cuts. Which are tax cuts for the wealthy, I might add.
What's especially disappointing about the bill is that it attempts to bury the potentially devastating cuts to health care under the guise of "tax reform." Many people are confused about health care as it is, and this bill seems to be another attempt to trick people out of coverage. Sadly, confusion seems to be the crutch Republicans rely on when they want to pass something they know will hurt millions of people.
On Thursday, The Hill reported Arizona Sen. John McCain will support the tax reform bill. McCain's support is a major step forward in making the bill a reality come late Thursday night or on Friday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs 50 votes to have the bill pass — a number he's quickly approaching.
Considering what's at stake, concerned Americans should call their senators in opposition to the tax bill — especially concerned Americans living in the following states:
- Tennessee: Sen. Bob Corker
- Arizona: Sen. Jeff Flake
- Maine: Sen. Susan Collins
- Montana: Sen. Steve Daines (Scroll to the bottom of the page for office numbers.)
- Wisconsin: Sen. Ron Johnson (Scroll to the bottom of the page for office numbers.)
Every citizen deserves the right to affordable and accessible health care coverage.