WASHINGTON — The sweeping tax overhaul that passed the US Senate on Saturday contains the Republicans' biggest blow yet to former President Barack Obama's healthcare law, repealing the requirement that all Americans obtain health insurance.
The individual mandate is meant to ensure a viable health insurance market by forcing younger and healthier Americans to buy coverage.
Removing it while keeping the rest of Obama's Affordable Care Act intact is expected to cause insurance premiums to rise and lead to millions of people losing coverage, policy experts say.
"It's going to take a bunch of healthy people out of the insurance market," said Craig Garthwaite, director of the healthcare program at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management.
Obamacare "is going to collapse even more now," he said.
Republican lawmakers failed several times this year to scrap the mandate as part of a broader repeal of Obamacare, blocked by opposition from a few of the party's senators, including Susan Collins of Maine.
Republicans, who control the White House, US House of Representatives and Senate, failed for months to make good on a top campaign pledge of President Donald Trump.
Trump has said Congress will return to repeal-and-replace efforts next year and over the past several months has taken regulatory and executive actions to steadily undermine the Obamacare law.
Insurers and leading medical groups have already urged Congress to preserve the individual mandate and warned of "serious consequences" such as rising premiums and a rise in the number of uninsured if it were repealed.