Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska penned an op-ed for the Daily News-Miner declaring her support for repealing the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. While not explicitly stating it, this is a good indicator that she intends to support the Senate’s version of the tax bill which includes repealing the mandate.
Then again, it could just be her way of saying that repealing the mandate is not what holds her back if she decides not to support the tax bill. With Murkowski, it’s always hard to tell if she’s on team (R) or team (D). She was instrumental in killing every attempt by the Senate to repeal and replace Obamacare throughout 2016.
If she really is supporting the tax bill, that eliminates one of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s potential nay votes from within the GOP. They can only afford one more with Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson signaling his opposition due to cuts helping corporations more than pass-through business entities like LLCs and S corps.
Murkowski’s argument is specific to the people in her home state, but is relevant across the nation. Millions of Americans are forced to weigh the medical risks versus economic burdens of either buying health insurance they don’t want or paying a tax penalty.
Alaskans pay the highest price for premiums in the country. That is why the number of people enrolled on the exchange in Alaska has shrunk every year since the ACA was passed. People have been forced out of the market by the high cost of insurance, with some often forced to pay a tax because the price of insurance was too high for them to afford.
A silver plan for a family of four, with a $9,000 deductible, will cost about $2,160 per month in 2018. If this family does not qualify for the advanced premium tax credits, they face the choice of paying almost $35,000 in 2018 just for health insurance premiums before their insurance really kicks in, or potentially paying a tax of $695 or 2.5 percent of their income. An individual could be paying around $709 per month for a plan with a $3,000 deductible. With no tax credits, that person would pay over $11,500 per year before insurance starts to help, or pay the tax for not having coverage.
Alaskans paid over $9 million to the IRS under this penalty in 2014, and over $12 million in 2015. There are Alaskans making the calculated risk to go without insurance and pay the tax. They prefer to take a gamble, pay for care out of pocket, and hope nothing too bad happens because the insurance available to purchase is unaffordable. Eliminating this tax would allow Alaskans to have greater control over their money and health care decisions.
Despite her opposition to the individual mandate, she still maintains her overall support for Obamacare. “The ACA has helped many people in our state and across the country,” she wrote. “There is no question about that.”
The administration noted Sunday they would be willing to ditch the individual mandate repeal if it meant getting tax cuts passed. I called on President Trump to influence the Senate in order to keep the repeal in the bill and get the House to approve. With Murkowski’s opposition potentially out of the way, it would be prudent for the White House to change their tune and get Capitol Hill to kill two birds with one stone. They can relieve millions of Americans from Obamacare’s burdens while cutting taxes all in one fell swoop. If they don’t, it’s possible they’ve heard enough opposition from the House to believe they won’t get it through. The only thing that would be more embarrassing for the GOP than the Senate failing to pass tax cuts would be if they are stalled because the two chambers couldn’t reconcile their differences in order to put legislation on the President’s desk.
The GOP is pushing tax cuts through as quickly as possible. The President told Americans to expect a signed bill by Christmas. Murkowski’s nod raises the chances they can get it out of the Senate. Will they be able to put forth their first accomplishment since confirming Neil Gorsuch? We’ll find out after Thanksgiving.