Swing-vote senator gives huge boost to GOP tax bill

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After helping to sink the “skinny repeal” bill in July, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) said on Tuesday that she supports repealing ObamaCare’s individual mandate. This could add a much-needed boost to the latest GOP tax bill, which includes mandate repeal.

Murkowski, a key moderate swing vote, wrote in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that she has “always supported the freedom to choose.”

“I believe that the federal government should not force anyone to buy something they do not wish to buy in order to avoid being taxed. That is the fundamental reason why I opposed the Affordable Care Act from its inception,” wrote the lawmaker. She further noted, “Repealing the individual mandate simply restores to people the freedom to choose. Nothing else about the structure of the ACA would be changed.”

Murkowski explained how the most recent version of the bill is acceptable, while earlier GOP ObamaCare repeal bills went too far by restructuring Medicaid and making other changes.

Murkowski pointed out that ObamaCare has not served everyone in the country. “People have been forced out of the market by the high cost of insurance, with some often forced to pay a tax because the price of insurance was too high for them to afford,” she wrote.

She pointed to a bipartisan ObamaCare stabilization bill from Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) as being important to help bring stability.

“While I support repealing the individual mandate, I strongly support enacting the bipartisan compromise Alexander/Murray legislation into law as fast as possible to stabilize our markets, provide more control to states and more choices to individuals,” wrote Murkowski.

Insurers and many health policy experts warn that the market would be destabilized and premiums would rise without a mandate because fewer healthy people would sign up, leaving just sicker and costlier people.

The Congresssional Budget Office estimates premiums would rise 10 percent but markets would remain stable in almost all areas of the country without a mandate, according to a report in The Hill.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who went along with Murkowski and Sen. John Cain (R-Arizona) in voting against the previous measure, has taken a tougher stance than Murkowski. Collins says the Alexander-Murray, along with another bill which would provide stability funding known as reinsurance, should pass before the tax bill with mandate repeal.

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