The GOP tax bill will be a health care burden on American families

The GOP tax bill will be a health care burden on American families
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When it comes to this Republican Congressional leadership, past is prologue. They spent the entire summer trying to pass a massive, unnecessary tax cut — under the guise of repealing ObamaCare — for the top 1 percent.

But we should have known they would be relentless in trying to make good on their promises to their wealthy donors. See what Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCongress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support Democrats brush off GOP 'trolling' over Green New Deal Warren: Officials have duty ‘to invoke 25th amendment’ if they think Trump is unfit MORE (R-S.C.) and Rep. Chris CollinsChristopher (Chris) Carl CollinsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Sanders set to shake up 2020 race House Dems release 2020 GOP 'retirements to watch' for Fighting AIDS domestically and globally means pushing more evidence-based services MORE (R-N.Y.) said recently about who they are really concerned with pleasing related to their legislative efforts.

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Now they are locked on their tax reform bill. The only thing it reforms is America's tax burden. Their proposals would pass reckless, unnecessary tax giveaways to corporations and to the wealthiest Americans and leaves struggling groups holding the bag — single mothers, students, underserved minority populations, poor rural communities in Appalachia, and disabled Americans, chief among them. 

 

For those who are over the age of 64 or who live with the challenges of disability, this tax bill does not carry benefits. Instead it leads to a path towards poverty, unemployment, and potentially tragic loss of life. 

The most significant proposal is the elimination of the medical tax deduction, as it will have immediate and devastating impact on the 8.8 million Americans who have claimed the benefit to help offset medical expenses, includes those dealing with the devastating consequences of medical crisis or disabilities. 

Of those who claimed the deduction in 2015, nearly half earned less than $50,000 and almost 70 percent earned less than 75,000 annually, according to AARP

Recently Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyGOP wants to pit Ocasio-Cortez against Democrats in the Senate Biden speaking to Dems on Capitol Hill as 2020 speculation mounts: report GOP senators: Trump should not declare border emergency during State of the Union MORE (D-Pa.) noted that seniors who cannot obtain coverage needed to supplement Medicare for life-saving medications frequently use the deduction.

It is also used by parents with disabled children who need to pay for medical equipment or wheelchairs, by caregivers struggling to cover the expenses of an aging parent and by those who experience unexpected out of pocket costs resulting from unanticipated and often tragic calamities in their families caused by accident, illness or injury.

In short, the medical expenses deduction has saved American families and lives by easing the financial burden on struggling individuals and families, and these middle class communities will feel the impact if it is discontinued.

The House bill also contains other provisions that will affect Americans with disabilities. The elimination of tax credits to small business owners to make critical accommodations or improvements that will enable access to consumers with disabilities is effectively discouraging compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The removal of a tax credit for companies to conduct research into treatments for orphan diseases will discourage companies to invest in new drugs.   

All of this combined will hurt vulnerable individuals and struggling families who wish only to fully engage and participate in an inclusive society. Individuals with disabilities, parents of disabled children and caregivers of senior parents will all suffer lost earnings, as they will be forced to pay more out-of-pocket for medical expenses.

I know this because I am an American with a disability, blinded by one of those orphan diseases over the last 30 years. As a member of the baby boomer generation, I enter my golden years with a disability and the knowledge that many of my peers will also become members of the disability community as they age.

Why should Americans with disabilities, aging seniors facing medical issues and their families be the target of increased tax burden while corporations, high earners, the most privileged, see their taxes reduced?

Make no mistake — this is a continuation of the republican efforts to subvert health care for all Americans. The disability community proudly stood up to protect and defend the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and we need to be prepared to put forth that same effort against this tax bill. As I hear one analyst put it. “The cavalry used to ride in on horses, but these days, they roll in on wheelchairs.”

The House bill went to floor and passed today, giving Republican leadership a much needed confidence boost. And while the Senate’s initial version of the tax bill was significantly different, including preserving the deduction for medical expenses, it too is a clear continuation of GOP healthcare efforts with a focus on giving tax breaks to the wealthiest 1 percent and the latest version including language to repeal the ACA individual mandate.

Just like with the ACA, advocates need to remain vigilant and fight to protect those who are most under attack by this bill. 

GOP lawmakers may be more willing to make concessions in the coming weeks to score a political win after some tough election losses. This tax bill can’t be that victory; America doesn’t stand for this.

Janni Lehrer-Stein, served two terms on the National Council on Disability (May 2011 – Dec. 2016) and was a Senior Domestic Policy Advisor to Hillary for America. She was progressively blinded by retinal degenerative disease in 1982 and has been a disability rights advocate for more than 30 years.