Daines pushes to repeal individual mandate through GOP tax bill

Sen. Steve Daines

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines joined President Donald Trump this week in urging Republican leaders in Congress to include a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate in the GOP’s proposed tax bill.

However, Daines’ push to repeal the health care provision using the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is unlikely to succeed, as House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, has expressed worry that the measure would jeopardize party efforts for achieve broader tax reform.

Daines said the individual mandate represents a “poverty tax” on Americans who can’t or don’t buy health insurance. In 2014 and 2015, he said, the government collected more than $5 billion in fines.

On Monday, Daines urged Brady, along with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, to include a full repeal of the individual mandate in H.R. 1 – the tax bill now before Congress.

“I’m encouraging the Speaker and Chairman Brady to include eliminating the individual mandate in the House tax bill – a fine on the low income in our country,” Daines said. “It’s important we take every opportunity to repeal this costly tax and this is a prime opportunity to repeal the tax.”

In 2015, Daines said nearly 30,000 Montanans had to pay the IRS $14.3 million for not buying health care, representing an average tax of $487 per household. Seventy-five percent of Montana households who pay the tax make less than $50,000 per year, he said.

“Montanans deserve better than poverty taxes, increasing premiums, and a shrinking market. They have waited seven years for us to repeal and replace Obamacare – it’s time we repeal Obamacare and start over.”

Earlier this year, Daines introduced the Repeal and Refund Act to retroactively repeal the individual mandate and refund everyone who has paid it.

Congress is currently faced with two opposing bills to address health care, including one crafted by Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

The so-called Alexander-Murray bill, supported by Sen. Jon Tester, would work to stabilize Obamacare by guaranteeing the payment of critical subsidies for two years.

But Trump has criticized the bipartisan plan, as has the conservative wing of the GOP. Daines opposes the proposal as well but supports the more conservative plan crafted Brady and Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah.

That proposal would fund subsidy payments while suspending the individual mandate. It would also waive the employer mandate for two years and introduce new abortion-related restrictions.