Republicans promised over and over again to repeal Obamacare, and they fell painfully short of that goal repeatedly in Congress. But thanks to the passage of today’s tax bill, the government is no longer forcing individuals to buy health insurance, and that’s a big victory.
President Trump boasted that”“in this bill, not only do we have massive tax cuts and tax reform, we have essentially repealed Obamacare. And we’ll come up with something that will be much better.”
While the bill doesn’t technically “repeal” Obamacare and its litany of regulations, it removes its most onerous mandate, which stealthily forced everyone to purchase health insurance through penalties in the tax code. Eviscerating Obamacare’s health insurance mandate through the vehicle of a tax reform bill seems like poetic justice for the Jonathan Grubers of the world.
It was Gruber, an Obamacare architect, who famously said that it was “the stupidity of the American voter” that required Obamacare’s true costs to be hidden from the public. Maybe the American voter isn’t so stupid after all.
Repealing the individual health insurance mandate will mostly benefit low-income wage earners, as 58 percent of those who paid the tax penalty in 2015 earned under $50,000 and 86 percent earned under $100,000, according to the Congressional Budget Office. On the other hand, most people won’t be affected by this repeal because they receive their insurance through their employers.
There’s already hand-wringing in the media about what the repeal of the individual mandate will mean for the Obamacare exchanges. According to CNN, “the Congressional Budget Office predicts that four million fewer people would be covered in the first year the repeal would take effect. That number would rise to 13 million by 2027, as compared to current law. Meanwhile, premiums would rise by about 10 percent in most years of the decade.”
The problem that remains unaddressed is that since Obamacare’s passage, health costs have increased exponentially. Obamacare’s insurance regulations contributed to premiums doubling over the course of four years, according to a 2017 federal report. And the amount the U.S. is spending on healthcare has been skyrocketing. We spent $8,147 per person on healthcare in 2009 and $10,348 per person in 2016, an increase of 4.3 percent over the year before, as a new analysis from the office of the actuary at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services found. Overturning this small portion of Obamacare won’t solve many people’s problems, although it will probably hasten the law’s demise by shrinking the number of young, healthy people in the insurance market pools.
But repealing Obamacare’s individual mandate does another thing: it saves $338 billion over 10 years, which will help offset the $1.5 trillion cost of the tax cuts. That’s because while the federal government will lose the revenue it would have collected from the penalty, it will more than recoup that due to fewer people purchasing federally subsidized policies, according to the CBO.
The government restoring individual freedom and lowering its costs at the same time? That’s something we can all be merry about.