By Blair Burnett, ACCC Policy Analyst
Early Saturday morning, December 2, 2017, the U.S. Senate passed their version of the tax reform bill, which included several provisions that may have a significant impact on access to care for cancer patients. The U.S. House of Representatives passed their version of the tax reform bill in November, and with some key differences between both bills, the Administration’s push for a legislative win with tax reform – as well as the need for a year-end spending bill – will surely create some partisan fireworks in the last weeks of 2017.
The House and Senate tax reform bills are now being negotiated in conference committee, where the details of the final bill will be ironed out before being voted on again in both chambers. With a possible government shutdown looming and budget reconciliation running out of time, Congress is under pressure to act quickly. Given the notable dissension within both houses of Congress, conferencing the tax reform bill will be difficult, specifically with key healthcare policies included. ACCC has expressed serious concerns about the impact several healthcare-related provisions will have on access to care for cancer patients, most notably:
- Repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Individual Mandate: Independent experts estimate that repealing the individual mandate will increase premiums by 10% and leave 13 million more Americans uninsured.
- Triggering Sequestration: Both tax reform packages include such a significant increase in the federal deficit that these bills would trigger sequestration, requiring a $25 billion annual cut to Medicare.
- Repeal or reduction of the Medical Expense Deduction: The House package would repeal the medical expense deduction, exacerbating the financial toll cancer takes on patients and their families.
ACCC is deeply concerned that the two versions of the bill, as written, will have a detrimental impact on access to quality cancer care for cancer patients across the country. ACCC sent a letter to Congress about the current proposals, asking that legislators consider the impact these policies will have on access to cancer care, particularly for millions of Medicare patients newly diagnosed with cancer or those currently living with the disease. “ACCC is committed to providing the highest quality cancer care to our patients, and we believe our ability to do so will be threatened if these policies are included in the final version of the bill,” said ACCC President Mark S. Soberman, MD, MBA, FACS.
The ACCC policy team will keep you updated on tax reform negotiations and alert you to continued opportunities to advocate for your patients and policies that support the cancer care delivery system. To advocate for changes to the final tax reform bill, please contact your representatives here.