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Senate Readies Vote on Tax Reform Bill

Capitol Connector
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Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Senate Readies Vote on Tax Reform Bill

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Back from the Thanksgiving recess, the Senate is nearing a vote on its tax reform package – potentially by week’s end. The bill was approved out of committee along a party-line vote earlier this week and on Wednesday night, the Senate voted 52-48 to bring the bill to the floor and begin debate. The National Council has made clear its opposition to this package as it includes provisions that would be detrimental to community behavioral health organizations and Americans’ access to mental health and addiction care.

HEALTH CARE PROVISIONS IN TAX REFORM BILL

The National Council is concerned about the many provisions in the Senate tax proposal that will directly impact their ability to provide life-saving services and Americans’ ability to receive them. The National Council is calling on its advocacy network to mobilize and prevent potential devastating proposals from becoming law. The chief concerns include:

  • Protecting charitable giving deductions. The bill proposes to double the standard deduction, likely shifting millions of taxpayers who currently itemize to taking the standard deduction. An analysis of this provision estimates that charities could see a staggering loss of up to $13.1 billion in contributions annually, directly impacting community behavioral health organizations.
  • Preserving the medical expense deduction at its current rate. Maintaining the current 7.5% income threshold after which medical expenses can be deducted would protect the financial futures of millions of Americans living with costly and chronic conditions like mental illness or addiction.
  • Preserving the individual mandate. This provision helps lower health insurance premiums for millions of Americans. It also funds comprehensive coverage in insurance plans to include necessary services like mental health and addiction treatment. With the continuing rise in deaths by suicide or opioid overdose, now is not the time to divest in health care coverage and treatment.

NEXT STEPS

The Senate is beginning debate and Republican leaders are working to solidify the vote count as soon as possible. Should the Senate pass its version of tax reform, both chambers would need to convene a conference committee to address the differences in each’s tax proposal. The selection of committee members, deliberation and negotiation on a revised bill, and subsequent votes on that bill could take days or even weeks. The National Council will continue closely monitoring this legislation and will update its members when necessary.

TAKE ACTION
As we have throughout this year, the National Council is calling on its robust and energetic advocacy networks to speak up and urge your Senators to “Vote NO” on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Together, we can protect the gains made in health coverage over the last decade and secure a strong future for community behavioral health organizations. Click here to get started.

©2018 National Council for Behavioral Health. All Rights Reserved.
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