GOP Senator Held Tax Reform Hostage…Over Obamacare

In recent days, conservatives have been breathing an unexpected sigh of relief as the Republican-controlled Senate — where Obamacare repeal went to die — actually managed to pass a preliminary version of a tax reform bill that would provide meaningful relief and economic growth for the country.

However, now we’re receiving word on the price Senate Republicans paid to make it happen.

The Hill reports that Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) asked for two bills that double the amount of money she wanted to “stabilize” (read: salvage) the Obamacare exchanges in exchange for her yes vote on the tax legislation:

One of those bills — sponsored by her and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) — would provide states with $10 billion over two years to establish high-risk pools or reinsurance programs to lower premiums.

That’s more than double the $4.5 billion originally requested in her bill, which she introduced in September.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he would support passage of both bills, which could be added to the end-of-year spending deal.

“This plan will provide $5 billion annually for two years in seed money for states to establish invisible high-risk pools or traditional reinsurance programs,” Collins said in a statement Friday.

“We know from experiences in the states of Maine and Alaska that high-risk pools can help to lower premiums substantially — by an average of 20 percent,” she said.

Collins had concerns that the tax bill’s repeal of the individual mandate would increase insurance premiums.

She hopes the passage of her reinsurance bill, plus a bill authored by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.), would mitigate those increases.

It’s not clear when Collins requested an increase in reinsurance funding.

However, experts have said reinsurance would need at least $10 billion per year to effectively mitigate the effects of repealing the mandate.

These additional provisions haven’t been enacted yet, but Collins said that GOP leadership gave her a commitment that they would happen — which presumably means there’s a chance that if they don’t, she may renege on her vote on the final version of tax reform once the differences between it and the House version are sorted out.

At Hot Air, John Sexton notes that this whole matter of propping up the stages could be a moot point in a matter of time anyway:

The whole issue could soon be overshadowed by the drop in enrollment for 2018. There have been many reports about the quick pace of enrollment but last week, just a day before the tax bill vote, CNN reported that enrollment next year could be down substantially […] if enrollment is down significantly, next year could be the year when remaining insurers, facing more uncertainty and premium hikes, decide to pull the plug on the exchanges once and for all.

What do you think will happen next? Will we be able to get tax reform without keeping Obamacare on life support? Or is the current Capitol Hill GOP doomed to take a step back for every two steps forward? Share your thoughts and predictions in the comments below.