Alaska Senators support repeal of health care mandate

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Both Alaska Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski says they are in support of removing the fine for individuals who opt-out of health insurance.

"Premiums for Obamacare went up over 200 percent and the middle class families couldn't afford their insurance so what does the federal government do under that law? (It) penalizes them with a fine because health insurance is too expensive to buy," Senator Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, said in a phone interview with Channel 2 on Tuesday.

In a statement Wednesday, Senator Lisa Murkowski said the proposed tax plan, "removes the tax penalty for those who do not wish to purchase health insurance that they cannot afford or that offers little value to them."

In 2015, nearly 20,000 Alaskans were fined for not signing up for health care, according to numbers from the IRS.

Joshua Weinstein, an employee benefits consultant, says the fallout from removing that provision is the risk that healthy people will stop buying insurance.

"They may stop buying that insurance and therefore leaving the sicker, more costly people in the insurance pool, therefore driving up rates for everyone. Estimates are showing a 10 percent increase in premiums."

Andre Horton, Coalition Director for the group Protect Our Health Care, says Alaskans living without insurance are gambling that they won't get sick.

"You can pay now or you can pay later, but if you are forced to go to the E.R., that could potentially bankrupt you," Horton said.

He says medical care is expensive already.

"If you are uninsured and you break a leg, you are going to have to go to the E.R. and that is where insurance is going up, because E.R.'s have to underwrite the cost for people that are uninsured," Horton said.

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