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Congress Passes Tax Bill

On a mostly party-line votes, both the House and Senate passed the compromise tax bill on Wednesday, December 20, 2017.  In the House, twelve Republican Representatives -- including New York Reps. Faso, Stefanik, Donovan, King and Zeldin -- joined all Democrats in opposition. (Reps. Faso's and Stefanik's districts are in Northeast New York; they both voted against the original House version as well.) The bill now goes to the President for signature.

The bill contains repeal of the individual mandate penalty, effective in 2019, which means that there would be no tax penalty for people forgoing health insurance.  Insurers remain concerned that as a result, younger, healthier people will drop coverage, leading to higher premiums to cover increasing health costs for the older, sicker people remaining. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that lack of the penalty will cause a 10% increase in premiums and 13 million people losing coverage in a decade.

The BlueCross BlueShield Association issued the following statement:

“We have long said that in order to have a health insurance system in which anyone can obtain coverage regardless of their health status, there must be a way to pay for the cost of caring for those with significant medical needs and to maintain a balance among healthier people and those who need more care. Otherwise, premiums increase and coverage becomes less affordable, and therefore, less accessible.

“The purpose of the individual mandate is to help achieve this balance among those enrolled in coverage. With its repeal, there must be a workable substitute to avoid further destabilization of the market. We will continue to work with lawmakers on critical steps to steady the marketplace so consumers can access the coverage and care they need.”

Throughout consideration of the tax bill, the Blues plans have stressed that without the mandate penalty, Congress needs to stabilize the individual market by funding the cost-sharing reduction payments as well as providing dedicated funds to help pay for the care of those with significant medical needs in order to mitigate premium increases in the individual market.  

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