Providers 'deeply disappointed' by Senate tax bill passage

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Providers 'deeply disappointed' by Senate tax bill passage
Providers 'deeply disappointed' by Senate tax bill passage

The tax reform bill passed by Senate Republicans in the early morning hours Saturday threatens the future of Medicare, Medicaid, senior housing and home- and community-based services, LeadingAge said in a statement.

“We oppose this legislation and are deeply disappointed,” the group said.

The 479-page bill, crafted by Senate Republicans, passed along party lines, with all Democrats and only one Republican, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, voting against it. The final vote was 51-49.

“Our overarching concern is the impact the bill will have on older adults and our nonprofit members that serve them,” LeadingAge said, adding that the group's concerns extended to the bill's effects on the federal budget and on the future availability of essential services.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in mid-November that if Congress did not take further action after enacting the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which would add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years, then the legislation would result in automatic federal funding cuts of $136 billion in fiscal year 2018, and $25 billion of those cuts would come from the Medicare program.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), however, in a statement on Friday explaining her decision to vote for the bill, said that both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) told her that “these cuts will be avoided.”

“Medicare provides essential benefits to our nation's seniors, and any reduction in funding triggered in this way would be completely unacceptable,” said Collins, who is chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging. She was one of the last senators to express support for the bill before the vote.

LeadingAge, Argentum, the American Seniors Housing Association and AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care were four of the 45 organizations that had sent a letter to senators on Thursday expressing support to an amendment that Collins had proposed to the Senate tax bill. The amendment, which was included in the version of the bill that passed on Saturday, lowers the threshold for claiming the medical expense deduction from 10% to 7.5% of income for two years for taxpayers who itemize their deductions; after that time, the deduction would return to its current 10% threshold. The House version of the bill eliminates the medical expense deduction.

“For the approximately 8.8 million Americans who annually take this deduction, it provides important tax relief which helps offset the costs of acute and chronic medical conditions for older Americans, children, pregnant women, disabled individuals and other adults, as well as the costs associated with long-term care and assisted living,” the groups wrote in their letter to senators.

The Senate and House now must reconcile their bills.

The Senate's summary of its bill, and the first version of the House bill, are available online.

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