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Senate Tax Bill Raises Health Care Costs for Everyone, Hammers Older Adults

As Republicans attempt to jam a sneaky health care repeal into law through their partisan tax bill, expert analysis after expert analysis has come to the same conclusion: health care costs will go up massively, particularly for older Americans. This week, independent analyses by AARP and Commonwealth Fund echoed that of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, finding that the sneaky repeal in Senate tax bill will result in higher health care costs, effectively levying an age tax on older Americans, and result in 13 million people losing coverage — all to pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest and corporations.

REPEAL WOULD IMPOSE AN AGE TAX ON OLDER AMERICANS

The Commonwealth Fund: Premiums Would Be $1,875 Higher For 60 Year Olds. “Average premiums in the nongroup market would increase by about 10 percent in most years of the decade (with no changes in the ages of people purchasing insurance accounted for) relative to CBO’s baseline projections.” This amounts to a…$1,269 increase in 2019, rising to $1,875 in 2027 for a 60-year old, effectively an age tax on older adults.

AARP: Repeal Would Impose Age Tax Of Up To $1,500 On Older Adults. According to an analysis by AARP, “Older adults ages 50–64 would be at particularly high risk under the proposal, facing average premium increases of up to $1,500 in 2019 as a result of the bill.”

THE REPUBLICAN TAX CUT FOR THE WEALTHY AND CORPORATIONS WOULD BE PAID FOR BY TENS OF BILLIONS IN MEDICARE CUTS

CBO: Republican Tax Scheme Would Result In $25 Billion In Medicare Cuts. “Without enacting subsequent legislation to either offset that deficit increase, waive the recordation of the bill’s impact on the scorecard, or otherwise mitigate or eliminate the requirements of the PAYGO law, OMB would be required to issue a sequestration order within 15 days of the end of the session of Congress to reduce spending in fiscal year 2018 by the resultant total of $136 billion. However, the PAYGO law limits reductions to Medicare to four percentage points (or roughly $25 billion for that year), leaving about $111 billion to be sequestered from the remaining mandatory accounts.”

13 MILLION PEOPLE WOULD LOSE COVERAGE TO PAY FOR TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHY

13 Million People Lose Coverage To Pay For Tax Cuts For The Rich. “Eliminating the health care coverage requirement would also mean that millions more Americans will become uninsured. CBO has estimated that 4 million people under age 65 would no longer have health insurance coverage as early as 2019 if this provision is enacted. By 2027, that number would rise to 13 million people left without coverage.”

White House on Health Repeal in Tax Bill: We Don’t Really Care

If the White House Doesn’t Care, Why Are Republicans Walking the Plank on Health Care Again?

Washington, D.C. — Yesterday, White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short and White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney made the rounds on the Sunday shows and made clear that the White House is fine with a tax bill that doesn’t include a repeal of the individual mandate, which would result in a loss of coverage for 13 million Americans and double digit premium increases for millions more according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The comments suggest that the White House won’t be in the business of providing political cover to Congressional Republicans if the mandate repeal goes through and millions lose health care while millions more pay higher costs.

Short told ABC This Week host George Stephanopoulos, “The White House is very comfortable with the House bill… As you know, it does not have the individual mandate in it.” Mulvaney, meanwhile, told CBS Face the Nation host David Muir that “if [the mandate repeal] needs to come out in order for [the tax bill] to pass, we can live with that” and told CNN State of the Union host Jake Tapper that “if [the mandate repeal] an impediment” to passing the tax bill, “we’re okay with taking it out.”

“First and foremost, Republicans should be wary of going forward with sneaky repeal in their tax bill because it will rip coverage away from 13 million people and raise premiums by double digits for millions more,” said Protect Our Care Campaign Director Brad Woodhouse. “But now, the White House has made clear they’re fine if the provision gets dropped and will leave Members twisting in the wind should repeal stay in the bill and millions be harmed. After a year when Republicans have taken one unpopular and failed vote on health care after another at President Trump’s insistence, why in the world would they walk the plank on this issue again just to have it sawed off behind them by the White House?”

Protect Our Care Statement on Senate Finance Passage of Tax Bill

In response to the GOP tax bill — which contains a repeal of the individual mandate, something the CBO found would increase premiums double-digits and kick 13 million people off of their health insurance — passing the Senate Finance Committee, Protect Our Care Campaign Director Brad Woodhouse released the following statement:

“This is unconscionable,” said Woodhouse. “To say the GOP isn’t listening to their constituents would be the understatement of the year. Ten days ago voters across the country made clear their support of the Affordable Care Act, electing candidates who supported its expansion, voting out entrenched incumbents who backed repeal and resoundly passing a Medicaid expansion the first time the ACA was on the ballot. Now, just days later, the GOP is responding to this outpouring of support for the expansion of health care by moving forward legislation tantamount to its repeal.

“This bill would raise premiums double-digits across the board, kick 13 million people off of their health insurance and cut $25 billion from Medicare — all so the wealthiest Americans and corporations can get a tax break. Republicans in Congress are so insistent on giving their donors a tax cut that they have no problem raising health care costs for the middle-class families who need it most while crippling the health insurance marketplace. Republicans in the Senate who said ‘no’ to previous efforts at repeal should say ‘hell no’ to this one.”

Sneaky Repeal: the GOP’s Latest Secret, Partisan Health Care Repeal

To: Interested Parties

From: Brad Woodhouse, Protect Our Care Campaign Director

Date: November 16, 2017

Re: Sneaky Repeal: the GOP’s Latest Secret, Partisan Health Care Repeal

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Republicans in Congress are sneaking health care repeal into their tax bill to pay for another massive tax break for the wealthiest Americans and corporations. What this means is simple: while the wealthy and corporations get a tax cut, middle-class families will get double-digit premium increases and millions of people will lose their coverage. Just last week in elections from Virginia to Maine, the American people rejected their approach to health care. Republicans aren’t listening — and they’ll be held accountable.

Sneaky repeal would be a disaster — it would raise middle-class premiums, make insurance unaffordable for people with pre-existing conditions and rip coverage away from millions of people, just to pay for special tax breaks for millionaires and big corporations. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that 13 million people will lose their health insurance and premiums will rise 10% because of the health repeal provision in the Senate tax plan. What’s the GOP plan for them? What are these millions of people supposed to do about their health care?

Moreover, repealing health care means fewer healthier and younger people buy health insurance, causing a “death spiral” of skyrocketing costs for everyone else — including people with pre-existing conditions. ​Experts predict that insurers will be forced to leave the Marketplace, meaning some consumers may not have any coverage options. So why take away people’s coverage and increase premiums? Because Senate Republicans want to pay for a $94,540 tax cut for multi-millionaires and to permanently cut big corporations’ taxes.

Analysis of the bill shows that families will face premium increase of nearly $2,000. An analysis from the Center for American progress, premium increases for benchmark plan coverage for an unsubsidized middle-class family of four are slated to be $1,990, but would be be even higher in a number of states:

  • A family in Alaska would see an increase of $2,900, and 24,000 people would lose coverage
  • A family in Maine would see an increase of $2,350, and 50,000 people would lose coverage
  • A family in Arizona would see an increase of $2,060, and 282,000 people would lose coverage

As such, the leading experts — patient groups, insurers, doctors and hospitals — all oppose sneaky repeal. Sixteen patient groups have announced their opposition: March of Dimes, the American Heart Association, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation; the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network; the Multiple Sclerosis Society; Lutheran Services in America; the American Lung Association; the American Diabetes Association; the National Health Council; the Epilepsy Foundation; the National Organization for Rare Disorders; the American Liver Foundation; Family Voices; Consumers Union; Little Mended Hearts; and Futures Without Violence. These groups wrote that they were “deeply troubled” over the bill, calling it “a step backwards for individuals and families.”

And they weren’t the only ones. Six leading industry groups — America’s Health Insurance Plans. the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and the Federation of American Hospitals — also announced their opposition, warning of “serious consequences” should the mandate be repealed.

Republicans want to cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations so much they are cutting Medicare and raising taxes on middle class families to do it. In addition to the double-digit premium hikes and 13 million people who would lose their insurance, the CBO found that the GOP tax bill would trigger $25 billion in Medicare cuts. The House Republican tax plan also pays for their tax cuts by eliminating the medical expense deduction, which helps families with high medical costs such as long-term care and chronic diseases. Nearly 9 million people claimed this deduction and nearly 70 percent of those people earned $75,000 or less.

And then there is the scam. Republicans want to give cover to people by promising a vote on the Alexander-Murray stabilization bill, but their actions make Alexander-Murray nothing more than a fig leaf. Attempting to adopt Alexander-Murray — which was crafted through extensive, bipartisan negotiations and with expert input — on the heels of a partisan repeal process represents nothing more than political cover. In fact, House Republicans have expressed opposition to Alexander-Murray so there is no guarantee it will get through Congress, let alone become law. At this point, Alexander-Murray means nothing if health care is repealed — passing it after voting for repeal is like installing guardrails on the highway after your car has gone over the cliff. It’s useless.

And all of this comes on the heels of the American people rejecting the Republican health care agenda. The reason Republicans failed to repeal health care four times already this year was a simple one: because people don’t like it. In fact, GOP health care repeal is the most unpopular legislation in three decades.

Just last week, health care was the dominating issue in elections. In the Virginia governor’s race, health care was the #1 issue, more than double any other issue, and among those voters, Ralph Northam beat Ed Gillespie by 54 points (77–23). Down the ballot, Democratic candidates for the House of Delegates ran on health care and won a historic victory, flipping at least fourteen seats. In New Jersey, 19% of voters ranked health care their top issue, and chose Phil Murphy over Kim Guadagno, who opposed the ACA, by 74 points (86–12). In Maine, voters “easily approved” an expansion of Medicaid by a nearly 60–40 margin.

And this week it was announced that more than 1.5 million people, including more than 345,000 new consumers, have gotten insurance though the first two weeks of open enrollment — a 45% increase from last year.

So why is the GOP pushing this agenda forward? Republicans are sneaking health repeal into their tax bill simply so they can give massive tax cuts to the wealthy and big corporations. Multi-millionaires will get a $100,000 tax cut under this plan while everyday Americans will suffer. But as last spring’s town halls, and summer’s Senate votes, and last week’s elections proved, Americans won’t stand for it.

Uh Oh: Sneaky Repeal Backlash May Take Tax Bill Down With Ship

Republicans were so desperate to give even more tax breaks to their billionaire friends and big corporations that they added a sneaky health care repeal to the plan last night to pay for it.

Turns out, their sneaky repeal is risky and may take their whole tax plan down with the ship.

Uh oh.

The Atlantic: “t could backfire, jeopardizing complicated negotiations over a tax bill and compounding what is already a heavy political lift.”

Bloomberg: “Senate Republicans have tossed a potential bomb in the middle of their tax overhaul bill. […] it complicates the vote calculations in both chambers and hands Democrats a bumper sticker-ready issue they can use to charge up their base.”

The Hill: “A risky play that meets President Trump’s demands but could cost the measure support from centrists.”

Washington Post: “Congressional Republicans are reaching for a booby-trapped bag of cash as they scramble to try to pay for their tax overhaul.”

Roll Call: “A complicated tax overhaul debate got more complicated Tuesday when Senate Republicans injected health care politics into the equation.”

Axios: “It’s a risky maneuver.”

Real Clear Politics: “[Senate Republicans are] adding a controversial debate about health care to their effort to overhaul the tax code before the end of this year.”

NPR: “The decision was a rapid change of direction for Republicans, who previously believed it would be politically dangerous to add any health care measure to the tax legislation.”

Reuters: “U.S. Senate Republicans on Tuesday linked repealing a key component of Obamacare to their ambitious tax-cut plan, raising new political risks and uncertainties for the tax measure that financial markets have been monitoring closely for months.”

New York Times: “Senate Republicans have decided to include the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that most people have health insurance into the sprawling tax rewrite, merging the fight over health care with the high-stakes effort to cut taxes.”

Zombie Health Care Repeal Part 5: What the GOP’s Sneaky Health Repeal Means for You

The GOP is sneaking in a partisan health care repeal to pay for their tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations. Here’s what you need to know:

  • GOP is sneaking in health repeal after failing four times. The American people rejected Republican repeal efforts four times over the course of the year. Now, they’re sneaking health repeal into their big tax cut bill for the wealthy and big corporations.
  • Sneaky repeal would rip coverage away from 13 million people and raise premiums by double digits. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that 13 million people would lose health coverage and premiums would increase double digits as a result of the health repeal provision Republicans are sneaking into their tax bill.
  • Key patient groups oppose sneaky repeal. Sixteen patient groups have announced their opposition: March of Dimes; the American Heart Association; the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation; the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network; the Multiple Sclerosis Society; Lutheran Services in America; the American Lung Association; the American Diabetes Association; the National Health Council; the Epilepsy Foundation; the National Organization for Rare Disorders; the American Liver Foundation; Family Voices; Consumers Union; Little Mended Hearts; and Futures Without Violence.
  • Key industry stakeholders oppose sneaky repeal. Six health care industry groups have announced their opposition: America’s Health Insurance Plans; the American Academy of Family Physicians; the American Hospital Association; the American Medical Association; the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association; and the Federation of American Hospitals. In the words of CNBC: “Insurers, doctors and hospitals oppose repeal.”
  • The tax bill would trigger $25 billion in Medicare cuts. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that huge tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations would trigger $25 billion in cuts to Medicare.
  • The tax bill raises health costs for middle class families and seniors with high medical expenses. The House Republican tax plan eliminates the medical expense deduction, which helps nearly 9 million people with high medical expenses, such seniors with long-term care, people with chronic health conditions and parents of children with disabilities. Nearly 70 percent of people who claimed this deduction earned $75,000 or less.
  • All of this is to pay for huge tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations. Let’s be clear: Republicans are sneaking health repeal into their tax bill so they can pay for their huge tax cuts to the wealthy and big corporations. The Tax Policy Center found nearly half of the tax cuts would benefit the top 1 percent.
  • Republicans are not listening to the American people. Time and time again the American people have rejected health repeal. First, the GOP health care repeal is the most unpopular legislation in three decades. In last week’s elections, health care was the dominant issue. In the Virginia gubernatorial race, health care was the #1 issue to 39% of voters — more than double any other issue, and among those voters, Ralph Northam beat Ed Gillespie by 54 points (77–23). In New Jersey, 19% of voters ranked health care their top issue, and chose Phil Murphy over Kim Guadagno, who opposed the ACA, by 74 points (86–12). In Maine, voters “easily approved” an expansion of Medicaid by a nearly 60–40 margin. And in the Virginia House of Delegates races, Democrats ran on health care and achieved a historic victory, flipping fifteen seats.

Key Stakeholders Warned Of Increased Costs, Lost Coverage And Destabilized Markets During the Fight…

Senate Republicans are ignoring bipartisan opposition and trying to repeal health care once again by inserting a provision into the tax bill that repeals the individual mandate. This provision would leave 13 million people without health coverage, raise premiums by double digits and destabilize the insurance markets.

But don’t take our word for it. Key stakeholders warned of these effects right before the Senate voted down the so-called “skinny” repeal bill.

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Society: “Critical Patient Protections In The Current Health Care Law That Ended Discrimination Against People With Pre-existing Conditions, Eliminated Annual And Lifetime Benefit Limits, And Guaranteed Minimum Essential Coverage Will Not Be Sustainable If The Provisions Reported To Be In The “Skinny” Repeal Bill Are Enacted Into Law.” “Critical patient protections in the current health care law that ended discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, eliminated annual and lifetime benefit limits, and guaranteed minimum essential coverage will not be sustainable if the provisions reported to be in the “skinny” repeal bill are enacted into law. The legislation could cause the individual insurance market to collapse putting millions of American families at financial risk.” [ACS CAN, 7/27/17]

AARP: “The Bill Will Leave Millions Uninsured, Destabilize The Health Insurance Market And Lead to Spikes In The Cost Of Premiums.” “AARP, with its nearly 38 million members, writes to express our opposition to the reported McConnell “skinny” repeal bill. The bill will leave millions uninsured, destabilize the health insurance market and lead to spikes in the cost of premiums. The CBO confirms that the provisions of the reported “skinny” repeal bill will lead to 16 million Americans losing their health coverage, including 4 million Americans who will lose employer-sponsored coverage. The result will be higher health care costs and fewer choices for millions of older Americans. We urge you to reject this flawed bill and this cynical approach. Instead, we urge you to begin work on a bipartisan solution to lower health costs and protect and strengthen the coverage that millions of Americans rely upon.” [AARP, 7/27/17]

America’s Health Insurance Plans: “We Would Oppose An Approach That Eliminates The Individual Coverage Requirement, Does Not Offer Alternative Continuous Coverage Solutions, And Does Not Include Measures To Immediately Stabilize The Individual Market.” “This continued uncertainty — combined with targeted proposals that would eliminate key elements of current law without new stabilizing solutions — will not solve the problems in the individual market, and in fact will result in higher premiums, fewer choices for consumers, and fewer people covered next year. We would oppose an approach that eliminates the individual coverage requirement, does not offer alternative continuous coverage solutions, and does not include measures to immediately stabilize the individual market.” [AHIP, 7/27/17]

Association For Community Affiliated Plans: “Simply Repealing The Individual Mandate Without An Equivalent Mechanism To Encourage Participation May Well Be The Trigger That Incites A Death Spiral In The Marketplaces.” “However, we remain concerned about the proposed skinny plan and the impact it would have on the Marketplaces. Simply repealing the individual mandate without an equivalent mechanism to encourage participation may well be the trigger that incites a death spiral in the Marketplaces. And it would place ACAP’s member plans in the untenable position of having to choose whether and for how long they can remain in an unstable marketplace, jeopardizing the coverage of millions of Americans receiving coverage from safety net plans. ACAP urges the Senate to reject the so-called “skinny plan” and instead work with stakeholders in a bipartisan manner to fix the Affordable Care Act. We stand ready to work with both the House and the Senate, as we have stood ready for many months, to identify, pass, and implement fixes to the Affordable Care Act and underlying health care system.” [ACAP, 7/27/17]

Consumers Union: “This So-Called ‘Skinny Repeal’ Would Not Only Still Leave Millions Uninsured, Destabilize The Insurance Markets Further, And Trigger Skyrocketing Premiums, But Is Also An Attempt To Try To Breathe New Life Into The Harmful Ideas In Both The American Health Care Act And The Better Care Reconciliation Act.” “Rather than finding a new way forward to strengthen the insurance markets, Senate leaders are using smoke and mirrors to make it seem as if this latest proposal is somehow different or better than the ones just voted down in the Senate. Don’t be fooled. This so-called ‘skinny repeal’ would not only still leave millions uninsured, destabilize the insurance markets further, and trigger skyrocketing premiums, but is also an attempt to try to breathe new life into the harmful ideas in both the American Health Care Act and the Better Care Reconciliation Act — both hugely unpopular proposals that have been rejected by Senators repeatedly.” [Consumers Union, 7/27/17]

American Medical Association: “Skinny Repeal” Will Lead “To Adverse Selection That Would Increase Premiums And Destabilize The Individual Market.” “There has been considerable speculation regarding a so-called “skinny package” that would primarily eliminate penalties related to the individual and employer mandates and provide tax cuts to device manufactures and the health insurance industry. Eliminating the mandate to obtain coverage only exacerbates the affordability problem that critics say they want to address. Instead, it leads to adverse selection that would increase premiums and destabilize the individual market.” [AMA, 7/26/17]

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association: “A System That Allows People To Purchase Coverage Only When They Need It Drives Up Costs For Everyone.” “If there is no longer a requirement for everyone to purchase coverage, it is critical that any legislation include strong incentives for people to obtain health insurance and keep it year-round. A system that allows people to purchase coverage only when they need it drives up costs for everyone.” [New York Times, 7/26/17]

American Academy Of Actuaries Health Practice Council: Repealing The Individual Mandate Would Raise Premiums And Costs To The Federal Government. “Eliminating the mandate, by lowering financial penalties or exempting particular categories of individuals from its requirements, would likely have significant implications for health insurance coverage and costs both to consumers and the federal government….Eliminating the individual mandate would lead to premium increases….Higher premiums could lead to increased federal government costs for premium subsidies.” [American Academy of Actuaries, 7/25/17]

The GOP Tax Plan is a Triple Punch to Health Care For the Middle Class

Republicans are desperate to pass their tax plan before anyone notices what’s in it. Why?

Three key parts — repealing the mandate, forcing Medicare cuts and cutting deductions for medical expense — are just the latest attempt by Republicans in Washington to attack the health care that middle class families depend on.

The three-pronged assault includes:

Premiums Go Up

Reuters: “Repeal of individual mandate would increase uninsured, premiums: CBO”

Medicare Goes Down

The Hill: “GOP tax bill could spur $25 billion in Medicare cuts: CBO”

Medical Expense Deduction Goes Away

Los Angeles Times: “GOP tax plan would scrap deduction for big medical expenses”

Protect Our Care Statement On Potential Inclusion Of Individual Mandate Repeal In GOP Tax Bill

In response to the news that Congressional Republicans are mulling the inclusion of a repeal of the individual mandate in their tax plan — which the CBO estimated would raise premiums by double-digits and leave 13 million people without health coverage — Protect Our Care Campaign Director Brad Woodhouse released the following statement:

“It was exactly one week ago today that voters across the country sent a clear message rejecting the Republicans’ partisan health care repeal agenda, and yet here we are again,” said Woodhouse. “After repeatedly failing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, of which their legislation was the least-popular bill in three decades, Republicans are apparently trying once again to jam a partisan repeal down the throats of the American people to pay for tax breaks for the wealthiest individuals and corporations.

“The Congressional Budget Office found that repealing the individual mandate would raise premiums by double-digits and leave 13 million people without health coverage, sowing widespread chaos in the marketplace. Make no mistake, repealing the individual mandate is tantamount to repealing the Affordable Care Act and as such it would be wise for those few Republicans in the House and Senate who said ‘no’ to previous efforts at repeal to say ‘hell no’ to this one.”

Gutting The Medical Expense Deduction Would Harm Those Who Most Need the Help

As President Trump and House Republicans attempt to put the finishing touches on a tax bill which would gut the medical expense deduction to give a tax break to billionaires and corporations, it’s important to keep in mind the monumental, detrimental effects this would have on everyday Americans. Recent stories have highlighted the wide range of people who use this deduction, from expenses incurred while caring for a spouse to parents attempting to make ends meet while supporting children born with medical issues. Repealing this deduction would harm the very people who need it the most, and for no good reason — it’s incumbent on Congress to reject this policy change.

“My Husband Had A Neurodegenterative Condition, Which Rendered Him Totally Disabled… I Loved My Husband And Was Determined To Keep Him At Home With Me. We Were Fortunately Able To Afford These Aides… Because I Was Able To Deduct These Extensions.” — Terri Corcoran of Falls Church, Virginia

“Terri Corcoran of Falls Church, Va., like so many others, wrote to me about why the medical expense deduction is so valuable for families faced with enormous health bills: ‘My husband had a neurodegenerative condition, which rendered him totally disabled both mentally and physically within five years of our 17-year marriage,’ Corcoran wrote. ‘I cared for him at home until his death last year. I employed home health aides for about 10 hours a day to help me care for him. I could not work because my husband needed my full-time care, in addition to the aides I employed. I loved my husband and was determined to keep him at home with me. We were fortunately able to afford the aides, because I was very careful with the money we had, and BECAUSE I WAS ABLE TO DEDUCT THESE EXPENSES TO LOWER MY INCOME TAX BILL. There are many family caregivers in this situation. Their medical expenses also include home adaptive renovations, health insurance, handicap equipment, doctor and drug expenses not covered by insurance, and more. Family caregivers SAVE the government by not accessing Medicaid. Family caregivers are caught between astronomical expenses and in many cases, the inability to work because of the caregiving demands.’” [Washington Post, 11/13/17]

“For Them, It’s Not a Once-In-A-Lifetime Tax Break, But A Provision That Enables Them To Survive Financially Year After Year.” — Bill Storey of St. Louis, Missouri

Tell that to Bill Storey. ‘This would be a massive hit,’ Storey, 61, told me Tuesday. He and his wife, Joan, 64, had to retire from their jobs a few years ago as a technology professional and schoolteacher, respectively, at a St. Louis-area school district — he to take care of a sick parent, and she because a heart condition made it impossible to continue working. Now their medical expenses reach about $37,000 a year. The sum includes $1,500 in monthly COBRA premiums for their insurance (COBRA allows them to continue their employer-based coverage by paying for it out of their own pockets), heart drugs for Joan that aren’t covered by their health plan, tests and treatments for her condition and other incidental healthcare expenses falling outside the COBRA umbrella. That spending yields them a deduction of about $29,000 in healthcare expenses. For them it’s not a once-in-a-lifetime tax break, but a provision that enables them to survive financially year after year. It wouldn’t give them more flexibility to use their paychecks, but would wipe out much of their income.” [Los Angeles Times, 11/7/17]

It All Has To Go To Pay For 24-Hour Home Care… ‘Removing The Itemized Medical Deductiosn Would Spell Financial Disaster For Me.’” — Stephen Trattner of Southern California.

“Tell it to Stephen Trattner, 73, a retiree from a Southern California scientific think tank suffering from multiple sclerosis who now lives on a $75,000 annual pension, Social Security, and whatever he can eke out from about $100,000 in savings. It all has to go to pay for 24-hour home care because he needs assistance with the daily chores of life — helping him get into and out of bed and a wheelchair, preparing his meals, driving to appointments. Trattner writes off about $70,000 a year in medical expenses, which gives him a tax break in the range of $15,000-$20,000. ‘Removing the itemized medical deductions would spell financial disaster for me,’ he says. It means burning through the last of his nest egg in a bit more than half the time he might be able to husband it otherwise. And that might drive him out of his Westwood condo in three years, instead of allowing him to stretch out his residency there for another six or seven. And that’s if his expenses don’t rise — but condo fees and wages for his home help service go up every year. [Los Angeles Times, 11/7/17]

“It Got To The Point Where She Couldn’t Take A Shower For Fear He Would Stray Out Of The House… ‘Losing That Tax Deduction Becomes A Double Burden.’” — Suzanne Hollock of Scottsdale, Arizona.

“Suzanne Hollack tried to care for her husband at home after he was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia at age 69. But it got to the point where she couldn’t take a shower for fear he would stray out of the house. So 18 months ago, she moved him to a memory care community near their home in Scottsdale, Az., which like most long-term care, is not covered by Medicare. That, plus his other medical expenses, cost the couple $90,000 last year. ‘These expenses place a huge burden on your retirement savings,’ said Mrs. Hollack, whose husband, Harry, managed operations for semiconductor companies. ‘ Losing that tax deduction becomes a double burden.’” [New York Times, 11/8/17]

“Our Son James Was Born In April 2011 And Was Not Released From The Hospital Until January Of 2012… If The Medical Expenses Deduction Is Eliminated, Our Taxes Would Increase.” — Jenny, California.

“Our son James was born in April 2011 and was not released from the hospital until January of 2012. We lived in a rural part of California, and the closest hospital with the capacity to care for our son was almost 200 miles away… As you can imagine, this got very expensive. That year, we drove more than 20,000 miles for medical care. That’s a lot of trips to the gas station. Every once in a while we would get lucky and get a room at the Ronald McDonald House, which only charged $10 per night, but most of the time the McDonald House was full and we were on our own to find a hotel. Then there were copays, deductibles, and medical equipment that was not covered by our insurance that we had to pay out of pocket. In all, that year we were able to deduct nearly $20,000 in expenses related to James’ medical care — far less than what we actually paid out of pocket, but being able to deduct those expenses made a huge difference for us. In the years since, we generally spend at least a few thousand dollars a year out of pocket on medical supplies that our insurance doesn’t cover. For example: my son uses a ventilator to breathe for him overnight, and the only connectors that our medical supplier provides are incorrectly sized and pull at his tracheostomy stoma, causing pain and bleeding… If the medical expenses deduction is eliminated, our taxes would increase, because our taxable income would increase.The out of pocket medical expenses we pay for our child are a constant: we simply cannot stop driving to medical appointments or buying extremely specialized medical equipment and supplies.We’ll still be on the hook for his medical expenses, but the extra money we’ll be paying in taxes means we’ll have less money for everything else in life.” [Little Lobbyists, 11/8/17]