by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Tax reform was always going to be a difficult lift for Republicans, so it came as something of a surprise when the Senate added a new complication to the mix: a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate. Yet it was the right thing to do.
The justification for repealing the mandate was the search for money. Because some people might choose not to purchase insurance if they are not forced to, the government will have to pay out fewer subsidies. That means some $340 billion less in government spending over the next decade. Senate Republicans were able to use these savings to reduce tax rates by an additional half percentage point across the board.
It should be pointed out that repealing the individual mandate is itself a tax cut for many Americans. (We know the mandate is a tax because Chief Justice John Roberts told us so.) In 2016, 6.5 million Americans paid more than $4.5 billion in penalties for failing to enroll in an Obamacare-compliant health-care plan. Those penalties, which averaged $695 per person in 2016 and over $2,000 for a family of four, are a particular burden for low and moderate-income families. More than 92 percent of those hit with the penalty earn $75,000 per year or less; nearly 80 percent earn less than $50,000. That’s not exactly another tax cut for the rich.