Collins Demands Two Bills To Balance Out Tax Bill’s Mandate Repeal Damage

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine walks the hallways on Capitol Hill in Washington Thursday, July 13, 2017. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., rolls out the GOP's revised health care bill, pushing toward a showdown vote next week with opposition within the Republican ranks. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has not been shy in criticizing her GOP colleagues’ decision to try to kill Obamacare’s individual mandate as part of their tax overhaul bill. Now, she is laying out new demands for the passage of additional bills she says will mitigate the damaging impacts of the mandate’s repeal.

Collins said on Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that she either wants Congress to take the mandate’s repeal out of the tax bill or pass two bipartisan bills — one restoring the cost-sharing reduction payments to health insurers that President Trump cut off earlier this year, and another establishing a federal reinsurance program to stabilize the individual market.

“I would like to see that done before we go to the tax bill,” she emphasized, though she did not definitively say how she will vote on the tax bill either way.

Other Senate Republicans have begun to rally around the idea of pairing the tax bill with the Alexander-Murray Obamacare stabilization bill, an attempt to balance out the blow to the individual market of repealing the individual mandate. But Democrats and health care experts say this doesn’t make sense from a policy standpoint.

“The Alexander-Murray bill would undo almost none of the harmful effects of repealing the individual mandate on individual market premiums, market stability, or health insurance coverage,” said the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in a new analysis, noting that Alexander-Murray provides only two years of CSR payments and would do nothing to protect the millions of unsubsidized people from the expected premium hikes.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the co-author of Alexander-Murray, compared using her bill to mitigate the mandate repeal to “trying to put out a fire with penicillin.”

Collins’ new suggestion of including a reinsurance program, which would cost more than $2 billion per year, would help the individual market, but it is not likely to pass a Republican-controlled Congress.

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