Rand Paul To Attempt To Shoehorn Obamacare Mandate Repeal Into Tax Bill

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., criticizes the House Republican healthcare reform plan as “Obamacare light” during a television interview on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 7, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The zombie has risen again.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), back in Washington following a brawl with his neighbor that left him with six broken ribs, announced Tuesday that he plans to introduce an amendment to the GOP tax reform bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

Paul and the other Republicans who have been agitating for the mandate repeal—including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) and President Trump—have cited studies by the Congressional Budget Office that found that axing the requirement that people buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty would save the government hundreds of billions of dollars. Less mentioned, however, is why.

The CBO reported in early November that repealing the individual mandate would lead to 13 million fewer people having health insurance over the next 10 years. Some of those people would be younger and healthier Americans who drop their health insurance voluntarily due to the mandate’s repeal, the CBO found. But skyrocketing premiums for everyone remaining in the market would price out and drive out older and sicker patients, leading to a “death spiral.”

There’s also a reason the mandate repeal is not in either the House or Senate’s version of the tax bill—the bill is politically dicey as it is, and GOP leadership fears adding in controversial health care policy that was already voted down in Congress this year could tank the effort entirely.


Alice Ollstein is a reporter at Talking Points Memo, covering national politics. She graduated from Oberlin College in 2010 and has been reporting in DC ever since, covering the Supreme Court, Congress and national elections for TV, radio, print, and online outlets. Her work has aired on Free Speech Radio News, All Things Considered, Channel News Asia, and Telesur, and her writing has been published by The Atlantic, La Opinión, and The Hill Rag. She was elected in 2016 as an at-large board member of the DC Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Alice grew up in Santa Monica, California and began working for local newspapers in her early teens.