11/17/2017 — 

CRANSTON, RI -- Today, U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse held a press conference in Cranston with senior advocates from LeadingAge RI to warn that the Republican tax plan will victimize seniors, retirees on fixed incomes, and people with high medical bills.  And Senate Republicans’ latest scheme to pay for corporate tax giveaways is to repeal the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which will drive up health care costs, spike premiums, and increase the number of uninsured Americans by 13 million.

During the event, the senators outlined the negative impacts the Trump tax plan will have on Rhode Island seniors and cited a passage from Reuters columnist Mark Miller’s column, Killing medical tax break will hammer U.S. middle-class seniors: “U.S. Republican lawmakers want to cut taxes for corporations and wealthy people by $1.3 trillion - and they seem to want seniors to foot a good chunk of the bill.  Their 2018 budget plan would chop $473 billion out of Medicare and $1.3 trillion from Medicaid. But the House tax plan also calls for elimination of the itemized deduction for high medical expenses.”

Indeed, the House-passed Republican tax bill eliminates the medical expense deduction, which allows individuals and families with out-of-pocket medical expenses greater than 10 percent of their income to deduct some of those expenses.  According to AARP, 8.8 million taxpayers relied on the medical expense deduction in 2015, including almost 26,000 taxpayers in Rhode Island. 

“The Trump tax plan offers relief for millionaires but it is a disaster for just about everyone else, especially seniors and working families.  It takes away people’s health care and would force many middle-class families to pay more,” said Senator Reed.  “It is unconscionable and unfair that the Republican tax bill raises taxes on working families, slashes benefits for seniors and others with high medical expenses, puts in motion billions in Medicare cuts, and throws 13 million Americans off their health care plans – all to provide massive tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and multi-national corporations.”

“The Republican tax plan would run up huge deficits, trigger immediate cuts to Medicare, and threaten Social Security and Medicaid down the line,” said Senator Whitehouse.  “Rhode Island seniors have paid for these benefits over the course of their careers with the promise that they will be able to live with dignity during their golden years.  We will do everything in our power to protect the benefits seniors rely on.” 

In the Senate, Republicans decided to pay for corporate tax cuts by repealing the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act—a centerpiece of Trumpcare’s “skinny repeal” plan.  Repealing the mandate would drive up premiums for older and sicker Americans and cause a “death spiral” in the health care marketplaces.  In addition to higher premiums, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that 13 million Americans would lose their health insurance.  And the costs of this change could quickly swallow any meager tax savings middle-class Americans could see, adding to the burden of the millions of American families whose taxes would actually increase under the Republican plan.

The $1.5 trillion or more deficit created by the Republican bill would put Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in serious danger as the bill’s costs explode. According to CBO, the deficits created by this bill would trigger $25 billion in automatic Medicare cuts in 2018, along with $111 billion from other critical federal programs.

Reed and Whitehouse are urging Republicans to abandon this repeat of Trump’s health care fiasco and instead come to the bargaining table with a plan that actually helps the middle-class and invests in jobs.