President Donald Trump stated on Dec. 20 that the passage of the tax reform bill amounts to an effective repeal of the Affordable Care Act, sometimes called Obamacare.
One provision of the tax bill is the elimination of the individual mandate, which required people to buy a health care plan or face a fine, reports The Hill.
"When the individual mandate is being repealed, that means Obamacare is being repealed," said Trump. "We have essentially repealed Obamacare and we will come up with something better."
He indicated he had avoided making a big issue out of the legislative change due to concern at how it would be covered by the media.
"Now that it's approved, I can say that," added Trump, referring to his suggestion that the bill repeal the ACA.
In an opinion piece for Fox News, Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah stated that the individual mandate is an "onerous and punitive" provision.
"Repealing the individual mandate tax is the beginning of the end of the Obamacare era, which has been marked by skyrocketing premiums and shrinking choices, making America's health-care system untenable and unsustainable," wrote Hatch.
He labeled the mandate as an "excessive encroachment" into Americans' ability to choose.
"Obamacare and its mandates put our nation on a fast-track to socialism," added Hatch. "If the federal government can force you to buy health insurance, where does the government's power stop?"
Supporters of the individual mandate point out it is necessary to encourage younger and healthier people to purchase insurance, helping reduce premium costs.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine agreed to back the tax bill only after getting assurances that Congress would vote on two health care measures. One would protect insurers from high-cost patients following the removal of the individual mandate, while the second would reintroduce cost-sharing reduction payments, which are government subsidies to support health care for low-income residents.
Collins acknowledged Dec. 20 after passage of the tax legislation that health care funding would have to wait.
"Rather than considering a broad year-end funding agreement as we expected, it has become clear that Congress will only be able to pass another short-term extension to prevent a government shutdown and to continue a few essential programs," stated Collins, according to CNN.
The senator added that she spoke to Republican House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who "said that the House remains committed to passing legislation to provide for high-risk pools and other reinsurance mechanisms similar to the bipartisan legislation I have introduced."
Most experts say that agreeing a deal to fund the cost-sharing reduction payments will not reduce premiums in 2018. Insurers have already priced the absence of the subsidies into their plans.