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Tax Plan Targets Affordable Care Act's Individual Mandate

Consumer advocates warn that tax breaks that primarily benefit corporations and the top one percent of earners could lead to cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. (Getty Images)
Consumer advocates warn that tax breaks that primarily benefit corporations and the top one percent of earners could lead to cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. (Getty Images)
December 12, 2017

DENVER – As Republicans work to bridge divides between the House and Senate versions of their new tax legislation, consumer advocates are warning that the measure could have significant health consequences.

By removing the Affordable Care Act's mandate for all people to buy health insurance, the GOP hopes to keep deficits low enough to pass the law with a simple majority vote.

Adam Fox, director of strategic engagement for the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, says that won't help working families in Colorado or anyone struggling to pay for coverage in the individual marketplace.

"It will end up leaving 13 million more Americans uninsured, and that includes an estimated 235,000 Coloradans," he warns. "On top of that, it will increase insurance premiums by double digits every year."

Fox says without the mandate, younger and healthier people could choose to not buy insurance, and that would leave more older and sicker people in risk pools, which would drive up costs. He says Coloradans who already face rising premiums on the individual marketplace could see those costs increase by an additional 10 percent each year.

Supporters of the move claim middle-income families will see losses in health subsidies offset by additional tax cuts.

Fox notes that while tax cuts for corporations will be permanent, cuts for the middle class are set to be phased out. He's also concerned that the GOP's proposal to increase the federal deficit by $1.4 trillion will result in cuts to social programs that middle-class and struggling families rely on.

"In the GOP budget, we know that they ask for $1 trillion in cuts to Medicaid and another $400 billion in cuts to Medicare," he says.

GOP leaders have promised that tax cuts will boost the economy and pay for themselves. A conference committee is now working to create a unified version of bills already passed in both the U.S. House and Senate.

Fox says Coloradans have about a week to contact their representatives and weigh in on the proposal.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO