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November 15, 2018

The GOP Congress Should Use the Lame Duck Session to Take Another Whack at Obamacare

  Dallas Morning News

We've entered the last two months of the 115th Congress, the last Congress under Republican control for who-knows-how-long. Many Republicans think the midterm disappointment was an aberration, and that reclaiming control of the House is more-or-less a given thing in the next election cycle. But the future is a foreign country. Democrats controlled the House of Representatives for years, until they didn't. Who is to say when the House returns to Republican control?

Republicans control Congress right now. Republican leaders might be inclined to graciously run out the clock during the traditional lame duck session, so as to ingratiate themselves with the incoming Democratic leadership. That would be a serious mistake. Winners maximize their opportunities instead of taking a knee, and the Democrats would show Republicans no such grace. The inclination of Republican leadership to lose gracefully rather than press their advantage is one of the things that infuriates the grassroots.

Recall how, when Republicans stuck with the Brett Kavanaugh nomination for the Supreme Court instead of just cutting and running, their numbers immediately improved. Republican voters want to gain whatever victories are possible, and there are many possibilities. Republican leadership should ram a skewer through the lame duck and serve up a feast of policy accomplishments before they cede the gavel to Nancy Pelosi.

For instance, Republicans failed to replace Obamacare by only the single vote of an intransigent Sen. John McCain, and his seat is now occupied by a likely more amenable John Kyl. Republicans could repeal and replace Obamacare in the next two months. And they should. Dust off the legislation and ram it through.

But absent sufficient political courage, Republicans should at least eliminate the harmful new taxes imposed through the Affordable Care Act: the health insurance tax, the medical device tax and the Cadillac plan tax.

The health insurance tax, which places a direct tax on insurance premiums, raises health care costs for families, seniors and small businesses. Congress has delayed the tax twice, for 2017 and 2019, because lawmakers on both sides saw how problematic it was. But without immediate action, the tax is set to come back in 2020.

One recent analysis by management consulting firm Oliver Wymanshowed the health insurance tax  would cost the U.S. $16 billion in higher premiums in 2020 alone. And though more than 140 million Americans would be affected by this tax, Oliver Wyman estimates that higher premiums could cost Texans $1.5 billion in 2020.

Insurers are in the process of setting premiums for 2020 now, so Republicans must act quickly to provide much-needed premium relief to American families.

Republicans should also stop the medical device tax, which will raise the cost of lifesaving technology, kill tens of thousands of jobs and hurt innovation. Just like the health insurance tax, this tax disproportionately targets seniors, small businesses and American workers.

Meanwhile, the Cadillac tax applies a 40 percent tax on certain employer provided health insurance plans for individuals and families. One study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the Cadillac tax will hit 30 percent of employer-provided plans by 2023 and 42 percent by 2028. Eliminating these harmful taxes should be a no-brainer for Republicans who want to make a final, positive impact while they still have the power to do so.

The average family will see $2,059 in savings from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2020. But without immediate congressional action, these destructive Obamacare taxes will reclaim much of those benefits. Take the health insurance tax as an example. If we allow it to return in 2020, nearly 25 percent of the Trump tax cut, or $500 in savings per family, will be wiped out.

Remember, the health insurance tax and the Cadillac plan tax help drive insurance premiums higher, and those higher premiums will hit right before the 2020 elections. That's something the GOP cannot allow to happen.

When the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March of 2010, Republicans vowed they'd do everything in their power to free Americans from the law's useless rules and regulations. But Obamacare has remained in place for more than eight years now. Republicans can use the lame duck session to completely deliver on one of their key commitments by replacing Obamacare or, at the very least, carve off a slice of Obamacare's taxes.


 

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