Health insurers and small businesses are pushing their long-sought goal of abolishing Obamacare’s health insurance tax as lawmakers work to repeal and replace the healthcare law.

The tax is a priority for insurers even as negotiations have centered on the Obamacare repeal bill and federal insurance payments.

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In what will be a busy week in Washington, the Republican House hopes to take another whack at ObamaCare reform, a large chunk of which is Medicaid. As if this were not enough to handle, Donald Trump promises a “big announcement” Wednesday about his tax plan, which will likely include cuts in the corporate tax rate.

Let us stipulate that Medicaid reform and corporate tax cuts are both excellent initiatives. Done properly, each would offer Americans, including those at the lower end of the income scale, a better deal than they have now. Unfortunately, pitching health-care reform as the way to help “pay for” corporate tax cuts undermines the best arguments for both.

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The Wall Street Journal makes an important point today about a subset of the Obamacare repeal fight: the lobbying to repeal the law’s taxes, like the ones on medical devices and investment income for the wealthy. It gets more complicated to get rid of them, the Journal points out, if President Trump and Congress don’t reach some kind of resolution on Trumpcare. That would shift all of the lobbying for repeal of those taxes to the tax reform fight, which is already likely to be complicated enough.

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In an interview aired Wednesday, President Trump said that his overriding legislative priority is to pass health care reform, but he won’t wait indefinitely to turn his attention to overhauling the nation’s tax code. Trump told the Fox Business Network, “We’re going to have a phenomenal tax reform, but I have to do health care first. . . . I don’t want to put deadlines. Health care is going to happen at some point. Now, if it doesn’t happen fast enough, I’ll start the taxes.” The White House had hoped to pass a tax bill before the congressional recess in August, though officials have conceded the deadline is slipping. Trump suggested that it is important to pass the health care bill first, because it would provide “hundreds of millions of dollars” in savings that could be used to offset a net tax cut.

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The Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) estimate of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) finds it will reduce deficits by $337 billion through 2026 (read our analysis here). But what would it mean for the long term?

While CBO hasn’t yet provided second decade estimates (other than to say the bill would not be deficit-increasing), we estimate – very roughly – that the bill would save $2 trillion over two decades, including $1.6 trillion between 2027 and 2036. Including interest, we estimate 20-year savings of $2.4 trillion. However, the bill also includes several “cliffs” that if addressed could significantly reduce that estimate.

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The furor over the Congressional Budget Office’s report on the House GOP health bill is concentrated on predictions about insurance coverage, which suits Democrats fine. Lost amid the panic is that CBO shows the bill is a far-reaching advance for the market principles and limited government that conservatives usually favor.

The CBO is not omniscient, but if its projections are even close to accurate then ObamaCare repeal and replacement is the most significant government reform in perhaps three decades. Under conventional (static-revenue) scoring, the bill cuts spending on net by $1.22 trillion and eliminates a raft of new taxes worth $883 billion through 2026.

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One of the most controversial provisions (for conservatives) of the American Health Care Act (aka Obamacare repeal and replace) is the creation of an advanceable, refundable tax credit for individuals to purchase health insurance. It would be available to anyone not offered health insurance at work, or eligible for Medicare or Medicaid. It would be bigger for older folks and smaller for younger folks. It would means test starting at $75,000 ($150,000 for married couples). The credit would be available month to month to offset health insurance premiums as a direct offset. It is paid for by repealing Obamacare.

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Republicans have a point that their Obamacare replacement plan is particularly hard for the Congressional Budget Office to score, budget experts say.

The bill, which Democrats are sharply criticizing for its lack of a CBO score, gives states much more leeway in how they would provide — or not provide — health insurance for people. And predicting how states will behave over the next decade is a time-consuming and tricky task for the agency.

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Current federal tax policy treats workers and their families who do not or cannot get health insurance through employment-based coverage unfairly and contributes to disruption in coverage when employees change jobs. Obamacare imposes a hefty excise tax on expensive employer coverage, a punitive measure that adds to the complexity of the current health care system.

Congress should repeal Obamacare’s Cadillac tax and set a simple cap on the employer exclusion. In addition, Congress should create a new type of individual tax relief that would be available to everyone, regardless of where they purchase coverage. Together, these policies would help to ensure that the federal government is not favoring one type of coverage or consumer over another and would go a long way toward restoring a functioning market in health care that is responsive to consumers.

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As policymakers debate repealing and replacing the ACA, they grapple with how to address the ACA’s “Cadillac Tax.” Rather than repealing the 40% tax on high-cost insurance plans outright, many advocates of “repeal and replace” have proposed replacing it with a limit on the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored health insurance. Doing so would be a wise choice, and limiting the ESI exclusion would both generate significant revenue to pay for an ACA replacement and help to limit the overall growth of health care spending. Other options include capping the income tax exclusion, capping the payroll tax exclusion, and replacing the income tax exclusion with a fixed-dollar credit/deduction.

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