Seemingly lost in the news of last week’s big tax-cut victory for the GOP was the repeal of the individual mandate — the Obamacare provision that required Americans to have health coverage or else pay a penalty. This is, to borrow a phrase from Vice President Joe Biden, a “big f***ing deal.” It is a big victory for conservatives, who disdained the mandate as government coerciveness. But from a broader perspective, the rise and fall of the mandate is yet another example of how Congress struggles to regulate the national economy.
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Congressional Republicans’ move to scrap the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate is likely to drive up sales of cheap, short-term health plans that do not have Obamacare’s consumer protections or benefits, health insurance experts say — a development that could further destabilize the Obamacare exchanges.
The GOP’s final tax legislation, which is now awaiting President Donald Trump’s signature, eliminates in 2019 the ACA’s mandate requiring most people to have health insurance or pay a penalty. For 2018, the penalty is set at $695 or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is greater.
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Republicans are under renewed pressure to shore up the fragile US healthcare system after they knocked out a pillar of Obamacare in landmark tax legislation, but did not attempt to stabilise it. Party leaders differ over whether to make healthcare a signature issue, stung by their failure to repeal Barack Obama’s reforms entirely in the summer. But the tax bill has made it harder for Congress to do nothing in the coming election year, say experts.
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