House Subcommittee Votes to Defund Individual Mandate

Published July 25, 2017

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a bill that would strip the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of funding to implement or enforce the individual health insurance mandate and tax penalty of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and otherwise restrict the use of IRS funds.

ACA requires individuals to buy health insurance that qualifies as minimum essential coverage, including a variety of expensive services, or pay the IRS a penalty of $700 per adult or 2 percent of their household income, whichever is greater.

House Resolution 3280 (HR 3280), sponsored by Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA), would block the IRS from using funds to enforce or implement the ACA individual mandate. In addition, no funds appropriated by the bill could be used to pay for an abortion or an ACA insurance plan covering abortions, the bill states.

The legislation would also prohibit the IRS from “targeting groups for regulatory scrutiny based on their ideological beliefs” and from “targeting individuals for exercising their First Amendment rights,” among other prohibitions, a press release on Graves’ website states.

The House Appropriations Committee’s Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee, which Graves chairs, approved HR 3280 on June 28.

‘Health Care Liberation’

Garrett Hawkins, Graves’ communications director, says defunding the individual mandate can proceed separately from congressional Republicans’ attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare.

“While Congress works to pass President Trump’s health care plan, stopping the IRS from implementing the harmful individual mandate helps provide relief for the families suffering under Obamacare,” Hawkins says.

Peter Ferrara, a senior fellow for entitlement and budget policy at The Heartland Institute, publisher of Health Care News, and a senior fellow at the Social Security Institute, says making the mandate powerless would put people back in charge of their health insurance decisions.

“Repeal of the individual mandate not only is feasible but highly popular,” Ferrara said. “Repealing the individual mandate would effectively amount to health care liberation, freeing workers to choose their own health insurance they favor in the competitive marketplace.”

Free to Compete

Getting rid of Obamacare’s minimum essential coverage requirement and fine would free insurance companies to offer people competitive insurance plans, Ferrara says.

“Health insurance premiums will be freed to decline as well, since workers can choose less-expensive plans without benefits they do not want or need,” Ferrara said.

The decision to forego purchasing health insurance should be up to the individual, Ferrara says.

“Repealing the individual mandate will not cause these people to be uninsured,” Ferrara said. “That would be the result of their own choices in the marketplace. If an individual American does not want to be insured, that should be his or her own free choice as well.”

Matthew J. Bolduc ([email protected]) writes from Washington, DC.

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