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story.lead_photo.caption Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., is shown on Capitol Hill in this file photo.

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania on Tuesday introduced legislation that would exempt some lower-income Americans from a tax that is assessed on people who forgo health insurance.

Known as the Mandate Relief Act of 2017, it would shield millions of Americans from the individual shared responsibility payment that is currently mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Nearly 6.7 million Americans were fined in a single year for failing to secure proper health insurance, Cotton and Toomey said.

Most of those who were penalized make less than the median household income -- $59,000 per year, they added.

Under the legislation, Americans would be exempt from the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate if their household income is below the national median; if they live in a state where average premiums have jumped more than 10 percent year over year; and if they reside "in a county with only one health-insurance issuer."

Cotton introduced a similar bill in 2016; it garnered 19 Republican co-sponsors but no Democrats.

"The individual mandate is one of the most unpopular parts" of the Affordable Care Act, the Republican from Dardanelle said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

The tax is also regressive, Cotton said.

"It fines Arkansans who can't afford their insurance because Obamacare made it unaffordable," Cotton said. "The fine disproportionately hurts working poor families because the vast majority of people who pay the fine make less than the average household income."

Rather than a blanket exemption for all 6.7 million people, Cotton said his "targeted and tailored legislation is designed to give relief to those blue-collar working families in Arkansas and around the country who have made the decision to go without health insurance."

In 2015, 64,830 Arkansans paid the individual mandate tax. Of those, 52,680 made less than $50,000 per year, Cotton noted.

The maximum penalty for most uninsured families has been $2,085.

While Cotton would prefer to eliminate the individual mandate entirely, he said that "I think the families who are most in need of relief are those families that are struggling the most. And that's families that make less than $59,000, the average household income in this country."

Democratic Party of Arkansas Chairman Michael John Gray said Tuesday that Cotton's proposal might make sense.

"Sure we would support that if Senator Cotton made an earnest effort. We are a party that will always support solutions," he said in a text.

But he suggested that Cotton should also watch out for Arkansans who have benefited from the health law "by letting them keep his or her health insurance through Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act here in [his] home state."

Metro on 10/18/2017

Print Headline: Cotton bill seeks care-mandate exemptions

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  • TimberTopper
    October 18, 2017 at 4:48 a.m.

    Is there something in the water he's drinking that's causing these loss of ability to think? This was put in to encourage people to sign up for the ACA, if they didn't have health insurance. It also was there to expand the risk pool so that premiums would be lower. O Well he has government insurance, for himself and his family, he can't be bothered by what average "Joe Arkansas" needs, because Joe isn't as important as Tommy.

  • RBear
    October 18, 2017 at 6:16 a.m.

    So we're now going to pay people to forego the individual mandate instead of helping them pay for coverage? What stupidity is this? Sometimes Republicans trip over their insanity trying to look intelligent. This is one of those cases.

  • 23cal
    October 18, 2017 at 7:06 a.m.

    With no insurance, who pays when they get the medical care that just about everybody needs at some time or another? If they are the ones for whom Cottonmouth is doing this---people making less than $50,000 per year----and they can't afford insurance, how can they afford a $100,000 or $500,000 medical bill? What happens then?
    I'll tell you what happens then: they stiff the hospital and declare bankruptcy, that gets folded into the cost of medical care, and the people who DO responsibly buy insurance pay higher rates to cover it.
    Republicans are supposed to be the party of personal responsibility. Where is the personal responsibility of not insuring your own health?

  • dmzlawyer03090825
    October 18, 2017 at 1:32 p.m.

    I may not understand this proposed Bill. If you are going to excuse a portion of the population from having to purchase insurance, then if such a person who has no insurance who pays for his or her health issues? The hospital provides free service, the doctors, the consumers who have health insurance? This appears to be regressing back to pre-mandatory days when treatment was generally free if were so poor because treatment was received at the ER. Please explain. Dennis Z

  • gagewatcher
    October 18, 2017 at 2:11 p.m.

    wonderful ! hope it passes my home health aid makes well below the $59,000.00 median income and can not afford the insurance or the penalties. the creation of Obamacare caused her to switch her life long democrat party affiliation from democrat to republican in the hope that the congress and senate can finally get rid of it. they had better get on with it.

  • mhck52
    October 18, 2017 at 3:16 p.m.

    The Supreme Court ruled the government can not mandate the purchase of health insurance; or anything else for that matter. If the government can't mandate you buy a product how can you be taxed for not buying a product?

  • RBear
    October 18, 2017 at 6:15 p.m.

    mhck, what are you talking about? In National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority, ruled that the Supreme Court found the mandate constitutional as well as the tax associated. Cite your sources for it being unconstitutional.

  • WGT
    October 18, 2017 at 6:19 p.m.

    Republicans having control of the senate, house, and presidency, still cannot get anything accomplished. Why would one begin to think this will be a good idea? Vote.
    Vote,vote,vote. We must show these hopeless people how real Americans help others.

  • carpenterretired
    October 18, 2017 at 9:12 p.m.

    Well ranger Tom has failed and failed to take health care away from 400,000 lower income working ,sick, poor ,least among us Arkansans by repealing the ACA , so he is now taking a shot at sabotaging the ACA to do unto those Arkansans with the evil in his heart , behold a hypocrite of biblical proportions . Wonder if the turnip truck guy is mooching(off the taxpayers) the home health care aid from a government program?

  • mozarky2
    October 19, 2017 at 5:58 a.m.

    Ever occur to you "progs" to vote Cotton out? I mean, he only won that seat by a margin of 56.5% to Mark Pryor's 39.4%-LOL!
    The economy is booming, unemployment is at record lows, the stock market is at record highs, Obama's beloved ISIS has been defeated, and you "progs" are telling us "Oh, noes! Things have never been worse"!
    You people don't have a hope in hell, do you?
    Freudenschade, baby! Thanks for putting a spring in my step today!