Nov 15, 2017

The GOP makes another run at repealing the individual mandate

The Senate Republican leadership last month. Photo: Susan Walsh / AP

Senate Republicans' latest tax proposal includes a proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. It's a risky maneuver, but one that GOP leaders waded into with at least an outward projection of confidence, saying they believed they had 50 votes for the overall tax package.

The big picture: Remember "skinny repeal"? The repeal bill that all but three Senate Republicans voted for on the express condition that it not become law? Because, as Sen. Lindsey Graham put it, "the skinny bill as policy is a disaster"? The policy is basically the same this time around.

  • "Skinny repeal" would have done more than just end the individual mandate, but that was its biggest change, and the one that made it a "disaster" for insurance markets. Any vehicle that repeals the individual mandate, without a replacement, will cause premiums to rise and leave millions more Americans uninsured.
  • That said, none of the three senators who killed skinny repeal — Susan Collins, John McCain or Lisa Murkowski — has said repealing the individual mandate would be a deal-breaker for their tax votes.

Why now? The savings. Repealing the mandate would save the government roughly $340 billion over a decade, and Republicans need that money to help offset the lost revenues from $1.5 trillion in tax cuts.

  • As CBO reminded lawmakers yesterday, if the tax bill does end up adding $1.5 trillion to the deficit, automatic cuts would kick in — including $25 billion from Medicare. Some Republicans have also said they won't vote for a tax bill that adds to the deficit, making the search for spending cuts especially important.

What's next: The House isn't expected to add in mandate repeal before passing its tax bill, so this would have to be worked out in a conference between the House and Senate bills, if they both make it that far.

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Stocks fall 4% as sell-off worsens

A trader on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

Stocks fell more than 4% on Thursday, extending the market’s worst week since the financial crisis in 2008 following a spike in coronavirus cases around the world.

The big picture: All three indices closed in correction territory on Thursday, down over 10% from their recent record-highs amid a global market rout.

Coronavirus updates: California monitors 8,400 potential cases

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

33 people in California have tested positive for the coronavirus, and health officials are monitoring 8,400 people who have recently returned from "points of concern," Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,800 people and infected over 82,000 others in some 50 countries and territories. The novel coronavirus is now affecting every continent but Antarctica, and the WHO said Wednesday the number of new cases reported outside China has exceeded those inside the country for the first time.

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Watchdog opens probe into VA secretary over handling of sexual assault claim

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie on Fox Business Network’s "The Evening Edit" on Jan. 7. Photo: Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

The Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General Michael Missal said Thursday he had opened an investigation into VA Secretary Robert Wilkie after lawmakers demanded an inquiry into his handling of a sexual misconduct report, the Washington Post reports.

Context: Wilkie allegedly "worked to discredit" the credibility of Democratic aide and veteran Andrea Goldstein after she reported last fall "that a man groped and propositioned her in the main lobby of the agency's D.C. Medical Center," a senior VA official told the Post.