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

By November 14, 2017No Comments

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]