Cantwell, Collins Introduce Legislation to Help Americans With High Health Care Costs

More than 200,000 Washingtonians rely on the medical expense deduction to receive care

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) today introduced legislation to assist families who are struggling to afford high medical costs. For those households that spend more than 7.5 percent of their income on medical expenses, the legislation would allow them to continue to deduct those costs from their tax bill.

The medical expense deduction is vital for those who have pre-existing medical conditions, suffer chronic medical conditions, experience unexpected illnesses or injuries, or face costs for long-term care services that are not covered by insurance. According to AARP, millions of Americans, including more than 200,000 Washingtonians, rely on it every year; nearly half of these people have yearly incomes of $50,000 or less.

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

“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,” said Senator Collins. “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."

“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, AARP. “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.”

Several years ago, the income threshold for taxpayers to deduct their medical expenses increased from 7.5 percent to 10 percent. The income threshold is set to increase to 10 percent at the end of 2018 unless Congress takes action.

Throughout the country, the burden of high medical expenses falls disproportionately on seniors and those with disabilities. According to AARP, nearly 70 percent of taxpayers taking the medical expense deduction in 2014 reported income of $75,000 or less, and nearly half reported incomes of $50,000 or less. According to IRS data, 210,380 Washingtonians claimed this deduction in 2014 – 96,690 of these individuals (or 46%) reported an income of $50,000 or less. A 2016 survey of cancer survivors showed that one-third go into debt and of those more than half incurred more than $10,000 in expenses.

Cantwell and Collins’ legislation has been endorsed by AARP.