Full Repeal: The Insurance Mandates Need to Go
By Gloria Taylor
Last week, both the House and Senate took the first step toward fully repealing Obamacare. Each chamber passed a budget resolution with instructions for the relevant committees to begin writing the budget reconciliation repeal bill. This process, called budget reconciliation, allows Obamacare repeal to pass with a simple majority in each chamber, bypassing the Senate’s filibuster. Republicans campaigned on repealing Obamacare for six years and taken over 60 votes to set the stage for what is now possible with a GOP controlled White House and Congress.
With the first step in the process out of the way, Republicans can repeal the law that has wreaked havoc on insurance markets, driven up premiums, and destroyed consumer choice. However, some Republicans are already calling for a less than full repeal leaving out a driving force behind the skyrocketing costs–the insurance mandates. These mandates including essential health benefits which make illegal specialized and inexpensive insurance plans, community rating which price-fixes how much insurance companies can charge consumers, and guaranteed issue which bans insurance companies from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions.
In 2015, Republicans had a trial run reconciliation repeal bill that abolished key provisions of Obamacare including the individual and employer mandates, taxes, and Medicaid expansion, but left the onerous insurance regulations in place. This week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report scoring the impact of that 2015 partial repeal.
The CBO estimates that if Congress partially repeals Obamacare, millions of Americans will lose health coverage and Obamacare premiums will increase. They continue to explain the number of uninsured would actually “be smaller if, in addition to the changes in [the 2015 bill] the insurance market reforms…were also repealed.” While the numbers of the uninsured and rising premiums seem to spell doom for the fallout of Obamacare repeal, it is important to remember this score is based off of a partial repeal leaving the regulations in place, confirming what we have known for years–government mandates destroy the market.
The report also fails to take into account future healthcare reforms Republicans will replace Obamacare with nor does it account for the executive actions the Trump administration will take to address various issues. It is also important to note that CBO estimates on Obamacare have been dramatically wrong in the past. For example, the CBO claimed that 21 million individuals would sign up for Obamacare by 2016, but in reality only 10.4 million did, not to mention the millions of individuals who lost coverage because of Obamacare.
The CBO report should make it clear to Congress that full repeal through budget reconciliation is the best path forward. Once this happens, Congress can pass a series of free market healthcare reforms that lower cost and expand choice to increase coverage. Heritage Action argues these insurance regulations “are some of the most problematic components of Obamacare,” and Republicans have “every tool that it needs to overcome any and all obstacles that stand in the way of fully repealing Obamacare.” Republicans can and should include these regulations in their repeal bill.