The Senate Finance Committee announced today that it would add to the Senate tax reform bill a zeroing out of Obamacare’s individual mandate surtax, in essence repealing the mandate. This is a big tax cut aimed squarely at America’s middle class.
The mandate is a tax which punishes those who can least afford it
Obamacare’s individual mandate is enforced by the collection of a surtax on income. Failure to purchase Obamacare insurance triggers the surtax.
In 2017, the surtax is equal to the greater of:
- 2.5 percent of adjusted gross income, or
- the dollar penalty
The dollar penalty is $695 for every adult in the household, plus $347.50 for every child in the household, with a household maximum of $2085.
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Repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate might not be the devastating blow to health insurance markets that supporters of the law fear.
Because the tax penalty for not having insurance is far less costly than what many Americans would have to pay for coverage, many have chosen to take the fine. Eliminating it, therefore, might not radically change behavior — or fulfill the dire predictions of spiking premiums and vast increases in uninsured people that economists, health providers and politicians once predicted.
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Senate Republicans have included a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate in the latest version of their tax reform bill. Some Democrats have reacted by claiming that the repeal of the mandate is actually a tax increase, and that mandate repeal “kicks” people off coverage they didn’t want to buy. Welcome to 2017.
The “mandate repeal is a tax hike” argument seems ludicrous on its face. Why would repealing a tax—the fine that you pay if you find Obamacare’s coverage unaffordable—represent a tax increase?
The “tax hike” talking point comes from two tables supplied today by the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Congressional agency that estimates the fiscal impact of tax legislation. (Its work is often mistakenly credited to the Congressional Budget Office, which also relies on JCT work for tax policy.)
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This month marks the start of the ACA’s fifth open enrollment period for individuals who purchase health plans on their own. The November Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds three in ten of the public saying they haven’t heard anything at all about the current open enrollment period. Three in ten Americans say they have heard “a little” while four in ten say they have heard either “some” (21 percent) or “a lot” (18 percent). About half of the public (45 percent) say they have heard less about open enrollment this year compared to previous years while four in ten (38 percent) say they have heard “about the same amount.
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