American flag flying over U.S. capital building

The Republican tax overhaul bill that included the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate was approved by Congress today after a House vote of 224-201. No Democrats backed the measure, and 12 Republicans voted against it.

The ACA provision stipulated that all Americans must have health insurance coverage or pay a penalty. The repeal of the mandate is not immediate. Once signed into law by President Donald Trump, the repeal will go into effect in 2019. People should continue securing coverage options for 2018 and paying their premiums.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that repealing the mandate will reduce government spending by $300 billion over 10 years. However, it will raise premiums by 10 percent and increase the number of uninsured people to 13 million in that same timeframe.

Some GOP lawmakers and Trump believe that the elimination of the mandate is the beginning of dismantling the Affordable Care Act, a measure they were unable to pass in a repeal-and-replace bill a few months ago.

“When the individual mandate is being repealed, that means Obamacare is being repealed,” Trump said.

ACA Still in Place

Even though the president said that the mandate nullification “essentially repealed” the healthcare law, most of its provisions remain intact:

  • Consumers can still purchase insurance on the state and federal marketplace websites.
  • Medicaid expansion is maintained.
  • Government subsidies and consumer protections will still be issued.
  • All 10 essential health benefits such as maternity care, prescription drugs, preventative care, and emergency services will continue to be covered in all ACA plans.

In addition, the individual mandate continues through 2018, so consumers who drop coverage this year will still have to pay the fine on income tax returns next year. The penalty for not having insurance is 2.5 percent of your yearly household income or $695, whichever is greater.

GOP Lawmakers See an Opening

“Getting rid of the individual mandate, that’s one of the keys that opens the door for us,” said Representative Michael Burgess (R-TX).

“I think we’re all going to say that we ripped the heart out of Obamacare with the individual mandate. It’s pretty hard to rip the heart out of it and not replace it,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (R- SC).

The repeal of the individual mandate adds to measures from Trump to weaken ACA laws, including halting cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments, allowing association health plans for the small-group market, and creating yearlong “skinny” stopgap plans.

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References

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/gop-tax-bill-headed-for-quick-passage-in-house-senate-on-tuesday/2017/12/19/61f83dac-e4cf-11e7-9ec2-518810e7d44d_story.html?utm_term=.df2b7075ccf7 | http://www.cnn.com/2017/12/20/politics/house-senate-trump-tax-bill/index.html | https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/18/us/politics/tax-cut-obamacare-individual-mandate-repeal.html| https://www.politico.com/story/2017/12/19/obamacare-repeal-tax-bill-trump-243912

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