National Council for Behavioral Health

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Your source for the latest updates from Capitol Hill. We translate policy into practice so you can learn how policy trends will affect your work and how best to prepare.

Michael Petruzzelli

, National Council for Behavioral Health

Republican Leaders Nearing Final Tax Deal, Release New Funding Bill

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On Wednesday, Republican leaders in Congress announced that they had brokered a deal amongst themselves on their sweeping tax reform plan, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Republican leaders plan to bring the bill to the floor of the House and Senate next week and hope to have it signed into law by the New Year. House appropriators also introduced a spending bill to keep the government open until January 19th. The bill includes several health care measures, but is expected to undergo substantial revision to pass in the Senate.

IMPACT ON HEALTH CARE

While the final version of the tax reform bill is not expected to cut entitlement programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security directly, it is likely to lead to dramatic cuts to the federal revenue necessary to fund those programs. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) made clear his view that cuts to health care entitlement programs would be necessary should the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act become law, saying, “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit.”

In addition to these high-level concerns about the overall impact of the bill, the National Council has concerns with specific provisions that would harm community behavioral health organizations and the populations they serve. These concerns include:

  • Preventing the doubling of the standard deduction as it would cause an estimated reduction of $13.1 billion in charitable giving, a critical revenue source for community behavioral health organizations;
  • Preserving the medical expense deduction which keeps health care costs low for those with costly chronic conditions; and
  • Preventing the repeal of the health law’s individual mandate, a key component of the Affordable Care Act that helps lower premiums and fund comprehensive insurance plans.

TAKE ACTION

Advocates still have a chance to weigh in on the conversation and help prevent harmful and unpopular policies from becoming law. Together, as we have all year, our voices can directly impact policy decisions being made in Washington, D.C. Take time today and urge your legislators to vote “NO” on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Click here to get started.

FY 2018 SHORT-TERM SPENDING PACKAGE

House Republicans have released the text of a continuing resolution (CR) that would fund federal domestic spending, including health care programs, for five weeks and defense spending for one year at current funding levels. The GOP-backed spending bill includes several health care measures, including five years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and two years of funding for federally qualified health centers (FQHCs). The bill pays for these provisions with controversial cuts to the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund and higher premiums for high-income Medicare beneficiaries. Democrats have rejected attempts to pay for CHIP with these offsets in an earlier vote.

Unlike the tax reform package, the spending bill will need to garner at least 60 votes to pass the Senate, meaning it will need the support of at least eight Senate Democrats. If the House passes their version of the bill, there are likely to be substantial revisions in the upper chamber, including changes to the CHIP funding offsets and the addition of Medicare extender provisions. As lawmakers remain focused on the GOP tax overhaul, Congress has limited time to negotiate a spending deal and avoid a government shutdown before the December 22nd funding deadline.