Cantwell: Protect health care costs deduction

By:  Katy Sword
Source: The Columbian

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., reached across the aisle this week to partner with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on legislation designed to assist low-income families with medical costs.

The bill would allow households spending more than 7.5 percent of their income on medical expenses to deduct the cost from their taxes. The medical deduction is already in place, but as of 2019, the threshold is set to increase to 10 percent. The threshold first increased to 10 percent in 2013 to help fund the Affordable Care Act. An amendment temporarily lowered the threshold in 2017 and 2018.

The bipartisan legislation would make that lower threshold permanent.

“More than 200,000 Washingtonians claimed the medical expense deduction on their taxes in 2014,” Cantwell said in a press release. “By making this deduction permanent, families with high medical bills will be better equipped to pay for unexpected medical costs and life-saving treatment.”

According to IRS data, 46 percent of Washingtonians in 2014 who use the deduction have annual incomes of $50,000 or less.

“The medical expense deduction provides needed financial relief for taxpayers with high health care costs, particularly those living with a disability, chronic condition or illness,” said Joyce Rogers, senior vice president with AARP, in a statement. “Those who rely on this deduction, most of whom are older, deserve the certainty of knowing the current deduction will continue to be there for them when they need it.”

The AARP has endorsed Cantwell and Collins’ bill.

“Medical debt is a serious challenge facing millions of families in our country, and as we endeavor to reduce health care costs, we should also make every effort to ensure that we lower their tax burden as well,” Collins said in a press release. “I am proud that my provision temporarily restoring the income threshold to 7.5 percent for all taxpayers became law last year. I urge my colleagues to support this next step to help increase the affordability of health care by making this provision permanent for all Americans.”