The Senate should be commended for including repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate in its tax reform plan. Repealing the mandate that forces individuals to buy health insurance would provide tax relief to millions of Americans who can’t afford the rising costs of Obamacare and otherwise would be subject to the tax penalty.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that over 10 years repealing the mandate would increase federal revenue by $338 billion. This additional revenue should be used to lower tax rates for all Americans, not used to expand special-interest credits and deductions.
Repealing the individual mandate can be good for tax reform. But more importantly, it is destructive and poorly designed health care policy. My Heritage Foundation colleagues Whitney Jones, Marie Fishpaw, and Edmund Haislmaier explain in a recent commentary for The Daily Signal:
The individual mandate is Obamacare’s requirement that every American enroll in health insurance or be fined. The idea was to push lots of healthier people—who didn’t need or want Obamacare’s expansive, overpriced coverage—to buy those plans in order to subsidize the cost of care for others.
But the experience with Obamacare over the last four years shows that the individual mandate does not work.
According to the most recent IRS reports, 6.2 million tax filers chose to pay the tax penalty rather than buy Obamacare insurance, 12.7 million tax filers obtained an exemption from the mandate, and 4.3 million tax filers omitted their health insurance status on their tax return.
In total, 23.2 million tax filers paid the fine, obtained an exception, or simply ignored the individual mandate.
They go on to explain that, up to this point, the IRS has not fully enforced the individual mandate. However, this coming tax year, Americans will be required to report health care coverage on their tax returns in order to receive a tax refund. Including repeal of the individual mandate in tax reform also allows Congress to cut taxes by another $338 billion over 10 years.
Congress should not use this new headroom to further increase any credits or special deductions. This seems to be what the Senate is proposing. The most recent changes to the Senate version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would repeal the individual mandate but use the money to add another $350 to the child tax credit.
Rather than increasing the child tax credit or adding back in deductions for property taxes (as Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has proposed), this money should be used to further lower tax rates on all Americans, not just a select few.
Repealing the individual mandate would provide relief to millions of Americans just when they are about to need it most. The full power of the IRS is about to start enforcing Obamacare’s tax penalty. Tax reform must address such a looming penalty.
Tax reform should repeal the individual mandate for numerous reasons. How Congress uses the additional revenue also will be important. Lawmakers should focus on further lowering tax rates, rather than adding to already burgeoning credits for select taxpayers.
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