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Need To Know: Republicans Are Using Their Tax Plan to Try and Cripple Obamacare

After a year of failed attempts to end the Affordable Care Act, the GOP wants to chop the individual healthcare mandate and destabilize Obamacare under the guise of middle class tax cuts.

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Lead photo via Flickr user Gage Skidmore

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In the U.S., the GOP's tax plan just got a whole lot worse. If you thought that cutting corporate taxes from 35 to 20 percent while dropping deductions for charitable giving and slashing Medicaid was bad, Senate Republicans want you to hold their beer.

In an effort to create enough funding to pay for their wealth-padding tax cuts, appease their orange-tinted Commander in Chief, and now try to finally keep their longstanding, and so far unsuccessful, promise to end President Obama’s crowning healthcare achievement, Senate Republicans have added an amendment to their new tax plan that would end the individual healthcare mandate after next year — the section of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) that requires Americans to either have health insurance or face a financial penalty.

To find out exactly what turning a tax bill into a healthcare bill will mean for you, your loved ones, and the odds that Republicans can actually pass their plan, we’ve compiled a series of deep dives from around the web to break down exactly what’s happening on Capitol Hill. 

"Senate Finance Chairman Revises Tax Plan to End Obamacare Mandate"
Susan Heavey for Reuters
 

So how did axing the individual mandate even make it into the GOP tax plan?

Outside of a direct ask from President Trump, who tweeted about including the anti-Obamacare provision on Monday, the proposed change was announced by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, who said that the 226-page amendment would allow for a slight, temporary drop in some individual tax rates.

“By scrapping this unpopular tax from an unworkable law, we not only ease the financial burdens already associated with the mandate, but also generate additional revenue to provide more tax relief to these individuals,” said Hatch in a statement on Tuesday.

A Congressional Budget Office report suggests that eliminating the individual mandate could free up $338 billion in funding over the next decade, an alluring prospect for Republicans trying to give huge tax discounts to their Fortune 500 buddies, but at the same time, the CBO also says that by ending the mandate, some 13 million Americans would lose health coverage in that same time.

But if you thought that eliminating the healthcare requirement would mean that those hundreds of billions would go directly back into the pockets of regular Americans in the form of tax breaks, you would be wrong. Even the minor help to middle class tax rates would be temporary, expiring in 2025, while the plan’s massive corporate tax cuts would live on, sealed for the foreseeable future.

"Obamacare’s Insurance Mandate Is Unpopular. So Why Not Just Get Rid of It?"
Margot Sanger-Katz for the New York Times
 

Still, you may be saying, $338 billion is a lot of money, and what if those 13 million Americans don’t even want insurance  at least they won’t be charged a penalty for their personal choice, right?

Wrong again.

Even as the most unpopular provision in Obamacare, spurned by Democrats and Republicans alike before its passing, the individual mandate is not just the first step on the road to socialized healthcare (although, really, would that be such a bad thing), but it incentivises healthy people to pay into the system, creating subsidies that are then passed on to the rest of the country, who would otherwise be charged even higher premiums, and in many instances, be unable to afford coverage at all.

If Hatch and Senate Republicans are able to carry the individual mandate removal into law, Sanger-Katz equates the amendment to sawing off one support of a hypothetical three-legged Obamacare stool: “Knock it out, and the whole apparatus would tip over, broken and useless.”

While that may accomplish one half of the long-promised Obamacare “repeal and replace” plan, Republicans in the Senate, House, and Oval Office have so far been silent on the latter guarantee, with no proposal for a plan that would replace the Affordable Care Act, once again leaving millions of Americans to fend for themselves in a high-priced private insurance marketplace.

"By Inserting Obamacare Repeal Into Tax Plan, Senate GOP May Complicate Passage"
Lisa Mascaro & Jim Puzzanghera for the Los Angeles Times
 

After an entire year of failed attempts at repealing Obamacare, Senate Republicans are now using the proposed tax plan to put all of their eggs into one basket, but will it work?

With a Republican majority in both the Senate and House, and a president already salivating to sign the legislation if it ever makes it to his desk, a vote straight down party lines would have enough votes to pass the plan, but before that can happen there will be a few significant hurdles to get over first.

In every other attempt to replace and repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republicans have been thwarted from within their own ranks, with the most recent “skinny repeal” plan shot down by Republican Senators Susan Collins, John McCain, and Lisa Murkowski.

Because the individual mandate removal is directly in line with that “skinny repeal” plan to destabilize Obamacare and let it fail on its own, pundits are already predicting similar Republican backlash that could doom the tax plan entirely.

For Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer, the healthcare inclusion is just another slap in the face to the every American outside of the 1%, and cause for even more public backlash.

“Republicans just can’t help themselves,” said Senator Schumer. “If the American people weren’t already outraged by this [tax] bill, injecting healthcare into it will certainly do the trick."

Additionally, while the individual mandate removal will be included when the Senate votes on their version of tax reform the week after Thanksgiving, in the House, a separate tax plan is expected to pass in a vote later this week, but does not include the Obamacare-crippling provision. If any tax plan is to be signed into law by the president, the House and Senate tax plans will eventually need to be worked into one joint proposal, and it is not yet clear if that bill would include the health care requirement.

Follow Zach Harris on Twitter