GOP crafting tax bill as bipartisan ACA stabilization proceeds
Wednesday, November 08, 2017
After the Republican Party's failed efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act, the GOP has turned its attention to rewriting the IRS tax code. But that doesn't mean they've given up on healthcare completely.
In marking up H.R. 1 — the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act — in the House Ways and Means Committee this week, Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) introduced an amendment that excludes several health tax-related measures, such as ending the ACA individual mandate to buy insurance.
"There is support on our side of the aisle for full repeal of the job-killing and other excise taxes that increase healthcare costs for consumers that were included as part of Obamacare in order to pay for massive new entitlements. ... We will move to these important health policies separately and immediately after conclusion of our tax reform efforts," Brady said in a statement.
With 24 co-sponsors, H.R. 1 cuts the corporate tax rate from a maximum of 35 percent to a flat 20 percent rate (25 percent for personal services corporations), starting in 2018. That will spur investment opportunities and economic growth, according to GOP co-sponsors.
The Economic Policy Center, based in Washington, D.C., disagrees that corporate tax cuts will increase growth and investment. The problem of the U.S. economy, according to the EPI's Josh Bivens and Hunter Blair, is that high corporate profits and savings, low interest rates and weak consumer demand act as a drag on investment.
And according to the EPI, the GOP's tax code rewrite would "almost certainly" put funding at risk for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the ACA. Under this scenario, the GOP's proposal would increase the federal budget deficit and boost political pressure for spending cuts to the above programs.
Health Access California, a consumer advocacy group, has a bone to pick with H.R. 1's removal of a provision to deduct medical expenses. That would negatively affect people with chronic conditions and the elderly in nursing homes.
Republican-backed tax reform must pass the House and Senate before going to President Donald Trump for signing.
In the meantime, America's Health Insurance Plans, a top trade group for the industry, backs the Bipartisan Health Care Stabilization Act of 2017 that Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) have introduced. The bill would stabilize cost-sharing reductions the federal government funds for mid- and low-income consumers to buy ACA plans on marketplace exchanges.
The bill by Alexander, chair the Senate's health committee, and Murray has 24 co-sponsors for the legislation that would permanently amend the ACA, while delivering to the states room to forge insurance policies with varied designs and lower prices, while maintaining funding for federal cost-sharing reduction payments during 2018 and 2019.
"This bill will provide American consumers with a more stable insurance market, states with more flexibility to meet the needs of their citizens, and more choice and more affordable care," AHIP said in a statement.
The nonpartisan staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation and Congressional Budget Office released a favorable analysis of the bipartisan bill: "CBO and JCT estimate that enacting the legislation would not increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2028."
The bipartisan bill is the "first step to avoiding chaos that could occur during 2018 and 2019 if premiums continue to skyrocket and millions of Americans find themselves without a way to purchase insurance," Alexander said in a statement.
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