Internists say tax legislation could harm health care for millions of Americans
Statement attributable to:
Jack Ende, MD, MACP
President, American College of Physicians
Washington, DC (December 20, 2017)–The American College of Physicians (ACP) is deeply concerned that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)'s individual mandate that is included in the tax reform legislation that Congress just passed will cause tens of millions of Americans to lose health insurance coverage. The repeal will also cause premiums to rise sharply and insurers to pull out of the health insurance marketplaces. Americans want improvements to our health insurance system; they want more people to be covered at more affordable prices. The legislation passed by Congress will do exactly the opposite.
Congress needs to put aside any further effort to repeal the ACA. Instead it should attempt to mitigate the harm that will be caused by the tax legislation by immediately passing the Alexander-Murray market stabilization and Collins-Nelson re-insurance bills. But, even if bills such as these become law, Congress and the administration need to be prepared to take additional steps next year to stabilize the markets and preserve and expand coverage. Health care for millions of Americans depends on having functioning marketplaces in the individual insurance market.
While ACP remains firm in our opposition to the repeal of the individual mandate, we acknowledge that improvements were made to the tax bill in other areas in response to advocacy from ACP and others. The bill does maintain the tax deductibility of student loan interest payments and tuition waivers. In addition, the tax deductibility of high cost medical expenses were not only maintained, but the threshold to qualify for deductions was temporarily lowered from 10 percent of income to 7.5 percent of income as ACP recommended.
However, despite these improvements, there are additional steps Congress must take to ensure that the bill does not do even greater harm health care. Congress must immediately take action to waive statutory Pay-Go cuts to Medicare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other vital programs, cuts scheduled to automatically go into effect on January 1, 2018. We urge members of Congress to make a public commitment to not using the deficit increases resulting from the tax bill as a reason to cut Medicare and Medicaid next year to pay for the tax legislation. Supporting fiscally and socially responsible ways to lower health care spending, while opposing such cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, will be one ACP's top advocacy priorities in 2018.
In addition to the concerns outlined, there is still more that Congress needs to address this week. Congress must also now act immediately to reach agreement on legislation to continue to fund the federal government past Friday December 22nd, with needed increases in budget caps for domestic health programs as well as defense. Congress must also act immediately to reauthorize the Children's Health Insurance Program for at least 5 years without ill-advised budget offsets that will harm other essential programs including cuts to the Prevention and Public Health Fund. Agreement must also be reached to reauthorize and fund the National Health Service Corps and Community Health Centers.
Finally, Congress must also promptly reach agreement on legislation to allow Dreamers, including medical students and residents, to remain in their studies and employment and to be offered a pathway to permanent citizenship. Every day of delay in reaching agreement to pass such legislation is putting millions more at risk of having to drop out of school or lose their jobs.
About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 152,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.