Senate Passes Tax Bill
Just before 2 a.m. Saturday December 2, the Senate passed its amended tax overhaul bill which includes repeal of the penalty for those not having health insurance (the individual mandate). The bill passed 51-49 with all Republicans except Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) voting for the bill and all Democrats opposed. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that the bill as passed will add $1.4 trillion to the federal deficit over 10 years.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who had voted against the ACA repeal bill in July, supported the tax bill after obtaining an amendment on deductibility of state and local property taxes up to $10,000 and receiving assurances from leadership that Congress would separately pass bills to fund:
- cost sharing reduction payments for 2018 and 2019; and
- $2.25 million in each 2018 and 2019 additional high risk funding to offset expected increased premiums due to repeal of the penalty.
The House had passed its version of the tax bill two weeks ago; there will next be a process to reconcile the two bills. While there are some significant differences in the bills, Senate leadership is predicting there will be a quick agreement, in order to send a bill to the President. Reconciliation could come via a conference committee or the House could decide to pass the Senate version. The stated goal is to have a final bill sent to the President for signature by Christmas.
With conference negotiations set to begin, BCBSA and plans will continue to stress the need for Congress to pass key market stabilizers – most importantly, meaningful funding for high-risk individuals – if the individual mandate is repealed. BCBSA issued the following public statement following passage of the Senate bill:
“We have long said that in order to have a health insurance system in which anyone can obtain coverage regardless of their health status, there must be a way to pay for the cost of caring for those with significant medical needs and to maintain a balance among healthier people and those who need more care. Otherwise, premiums increase and coverage becomes less affordable, and therefore, less accessible.
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