WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans have decided to include the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that most people have health insurance in a sprawling overhaul of the tax code, merging the fight over health care with the high-stakes effort to cut taxes.
Repealing the so-called individual mandate, as President Trump had urged, would help Republicans with the difficult math problem they face in refining their tax plan. But it also risks reigniting the contentious debate over health care that Republicans found themselves mired in for much of the year.
“We’re optimistic that inserting the individual mandate repeal would be helpful,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, told reporters.
In order to be protected from a Democratic filibuster, the tax bill can add no more than $1.5 trillion to federal budget deficits over a decade, and it cannot add to the deficit after a decade. Eliminating the mandate would free up more than $300 billion over a decade that could go toward tax cuts, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Because getting rid of the mandate would lead to a decline in the number of people with health coverage, the government would spend less money on subsidized health plans.
Senator John Thune of South Dakota, a member of the Republican leadership who also serves on the Finance Committee, said the savings from repealing the mandate would be “distributed in the form of middle-income tax relief.”