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Trump wants to insert Obamacare repeal into tax bill -- giving Republicans a new headache as rollout stalls

Lisa Mascaro, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in Health & Fitness

WASHINGTON -- As House Republicans struggle to produce their ambitious tax overhaul, President Donald Trump weighed in Wednesday with an off-topic suggestion: How about repealing part of Obamacare and use the money saved on health care for tax cuts?

"Wouldn't it be great to Repeal the very unfair and unpopular Individual Mandate in ObamaCare and use those savings for further Tax Cuts for the Middle Class. The House and Senate should consider ASAP as the process of final approval moves along. Push Biggest Tax Cuts EVER," the president tweeted.

The idea is not original. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who often has the president's ear, floated as much during a tweet storm over the weekend.

"I have a modest proposal for the soon-to-be-released tax legislation: repeal Obamacare's individual mandate," he wrote on Twitter.

Cotton, joined by GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, argues that repealing the mandate that all Americans carry health insurance would save $300 billion over the decade.

Not only would Republicans be able to find more revenue needed to pay for tax cuts without having to eliminate popular deductions, but they would also score a political win after their failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, supporters reason.

But the idea creates headaches for GOP tax bill writers who are already struggling to rally lawmakers around a stand-alone tax bill. Adding Obamacare repeal to the mix would force them to wade through an additional political and procedural morass.

The savings from ending the Obamacare individual mandate comes largely if people cancel their once-required insurance coverage. Since most Obamacare recipients receive federal subsidies to lower their premiums, the government would save money if they dropped coverage.

But Republicans in the Senate have already shown, in their failed repeal votes this year, that they are unwilling to change the Affordable Care Act in ways that leave more Americans uninsured.

Trump's proposal has not appeared to gain traction. But as the president spitballs ideas -- and Republicans struggle to figure out a way to pay for their tax plan -- it may become something more for them to talk about.

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