The Senate this week is expected to vote on a tax bill that includes a controversial provision to repeal Obamacare’s tax penalty on the uninsured.
Democrats and some conservative policy analysts fret that if Congress scuttles the so-called individual mandate, insurance premiums will rise.
The reverse may be closer to the truth: Premiums for Obamacare policies next year will be so high that millions will be exempt from the tax penalty whether Congress repeals it or not. Even the skimpiest coverage now costs so much that many uninsured people with six-figure incomes will be exempt.
The individual mandate is repealing itself.
The mandate represented a grand bargain between the government and the insurance industry. Insurers agreed not to base premiums on applicants’ medical conditions, and in exchange, the government agreed to subsidize premiums and penalize the uninsured. In theory, the threat of tax penalties would induce healthy people to pay an unfairly high price for a product they wouldn’t otherwise buy, creating a stable insurance pool that would generate billions in profits for insurers.
It hasn’t worked out that way. Healthy people have largely shunned the exchanges, making the individual health-insurance market a losing proposition for most insurers. The number of people with individual policies, which grew during Obamacare’s first two years, has been shrinking since 2016. The erosion has been most pronounced among those who earn too much to receive premium subsidies.
So why aren’t more people who refuse to buy Obamacare policies forced to pay tax penalties? One reason is that the Obamacare statute does not permit the IRS to collect the penalty in cases where premiums would exceed 8 percent of an uninsured person’s income. That is a high bar: The average household spent 5.5 percent of its income on health-insurance premiums last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Read more at the National Review....
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