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Senate tax chief sees room for repealing Obamacare levies in tax reform drive

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A looming push to overhaul the U.S. tax code could include the repeal of Obamacare taxes left intact by last week’s collapse of the Republican healthcare bill, the Senate’s top Republican on tax policy said on Wednesday.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch said levies imposed by Obamacare, including taxes on medical devices and benefit-rich health insurance polices known as “Cadillac” plans, could be tackled through tax reform or a revised healthcare bill.

“Either, as far as I’m concerned,” Hatch told reporters. “Any way we can get rid of those, I think it’d be a good thing.”

Americans for Tax Reform, a political group in Washington that opposes all tax increases, said 21 tax hikes emerged from the 2010 Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare.

Democrats say the taxes are necessary to help moderate-to-low-income consumers obtain health coverage through private insurance and the Medicaid program for the poor and disabled.

The prospects for using tax reform to repeal Obamacare’s taxes dimmed earlier this week in the House of Representatives, when House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady said he would not include the Obamacare items in tax reform legislation his panel is expected to disclose later this year.

Hatch’s comments suggested the Senate could take a different approach on the taxes once a House tax reform bill reaches his chamber, unless a new healthcare bill surfaces first.

The House Republican healthcare bill, which would have repealed nearly $900 billion in Obamacare taxes over a decade, was pulled from consideration last Friday because Republicans lacked the votes to pass it.

Republicans say they are determined to revisit the topic, and President Donald Trump told senators on Tuesday that he expected lawmakers to reach a deal on healthcare.

Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Julia Edwards Ainsley and Peter Cooney