The American Geriatrics Society (AGS) continues to voice strong opposition to the Tax Cuts and Job Acts, the tax reform bill that could jeopardize care for millions of older adults and caregivers if it passes a Congressional vote planned for early next week. Since developing their own plans earlier this fall, House and Senate leaders have been working to reconcile independent versions of their proposals, neither of which have been open to considerable public comment or scrutiny. While it remains unclear what will be included in the final tax reform proposal, the AGS remains concerned that several flawed proposals under serious consideration could curtail supports for millions of older Americans and threaten important gains securing health coverage for us all, according to independent analyses.
“With what little time we’ve been given to consider these proposals in an open forum, it is telling that independent experts and everyday Americans continue to voice the same concerns about jeopardizing health, independence, and quality of life for us all as we age,” noted AGS Chief Executive Officer Nancy Lundebjerg, MPA. “Disheartened by the lack of transparency and sensitivity to the needs of older people, the AGS will continue to work tirelessly for evidence-based solutions to advance high-quality, person-centered, and affordable care for all Americans.”
Independent analysts previously reported that both the House and Senate tax reform proposals could add up to $1.5 trillion to the deficit over 10 years. “Pay-go rules” for triggering automatic budget cuts would reduce support for mandatory spending programs by $136 billion in 2018 alone, including roughly $25 billion cut from Medicare, the nation’s largest insurer for older people.
Though Republican legislators have vowed to preserve important services like Medicare and have allegedly agreed to leave some critical benefits like medical expense tax deductions untouched, these leaders also have yet to articulate a clear, definitive plan for protecting Medicare and countless other programs at risk should the tax reform proposal become law. Moreover, AGS experts are concerned that the significant increase in the deficit caused by the tax bill will create a sense of urgency and a rationale for cutting these vital programs for older adults as part of “entitlement reform.”
The final tax reform bill is also likely to include a provision for repealing the individual mandate supporting health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Congressional Budget Office previously estimated that removing the mandate would leave 13 million more Americans without insurance.
In light of these concerns, the AGS continues to call for stakeholder input, public hearings, and ample opportunities for feedback on health and tax reform from the American public. “Doing so,” said Lundebjerg, “is our best chance for a future when all of us can have access to high-quality, person-centered, and affordable health care.”