HARTFORD, CT — Responding partly to a Tweet from the commander-in-chief Monday, the Senate Republicans decided to add a repeal of the individual healthcare mandate to their tax reform package.
The mandate repeal would save more than $300 billion over a decade, but it would mean 13 million fewer Americans will purchase health insurance, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
U.S Sen. Chris Murphy tweeted Wednesday morning that it “was cruel enough for them to take your health care to get back at Obama. Downright sinister to take your health care to fund tax cuts for billionaires.”
By Wednesday afternoon he was criticizing the decision in a committee hearing.
“This tax bill has turned into a health care bill in the last 48 hours,” Murphy said. “I was so proud of this committee when we held, I think, three or four hearings to study how we could stabilize the individual market. But the impact of [that] will be dwarfed by the impact of repealing the individual mandate.”
Murphy said basically that means a rational healthy person won’t purchase insurance until they get sick and at the very least premiums will go up 10 percent every year. Add that to the fact that the tax breaks will expire in 10 years and the middle class will be left with a hefty bill.
“Seven years from now, the doubling of annual premiums for the average family will mean an increase in cost of $10,000. So to most middle class families, yesterday, this bill stopped being a tax bill and started being a health care bill. And this committee, again, is not reviewing it,” Murphy said.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal tweeted Wednesday afternoon that it’s not tax reform, “it’s an all-out assault on the middle class.”
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said “Senate Republicans are taking a bad bill and making it worse.”
He said already the proposals fell short of their promise to reduce taxes for average Americans. But repealing the individual mandate will increase premiums and further hurt the middle class.
Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, who co-chairs Connecticut’s health insurance exchange, said the individual mandate is a “key tenet” of the Affordable Care Act because it creates a diverse insurance pool that helps keep costs in check.
“Without the mandate, the uninsured rate rises and costs go up for everyone — exactly the opposite of where we need to go,” Wyman said. “The gains under the ACA are undeniable. Congress should be working to improve the ACA, not rollback healthcare for all Americans.”
Enrollment this year on Connecticut’s exchange is up 15 percent over where it was last year at this time. New numbers are expected to be released on Friday.
Nationally, healthcare enrollment is up to 1.47 million after the first two weeks of enrollment, compared to 1 million people last year at this time.
The enrollment period is shortened this year and will end in Connecticut on Dec. 22.