What the Tax Bill Means for Montanans: Massive Tax Hikes For Elderly, Sick, and Disabled

The next victims of the Republican tax bill are those who face “extraordinary” medical care costs. The House version of the tax bill, supported by Greg Gianforte, eliminates this provision used by 8.8 million Americans, most of them elderly, in 2015 alone. In place since 1942, the medical deduction provides that “anyone can deduct medical expenses that account for more than 10 percent of their adjusted gross income.”

The Washington Post notes that eliminating this provision in the tax code will raise taxes on American families by $10 billion dollars a year, drastically impacting the quality of life for those suffering from long-term illnesses like cancer, those disabled in serious accidents, and Alzheimer’s. Anne Hammer, 71, is one of those who will be affected by the change:

But if she loses the medical deduction, her taxable income would jump — and so would her taxes. Her home state of Maryland bases its taxes off the federal ones, so losing the medical deduction at the federal level would lead to more taxes at the state level as well. The more money that goes to taxes, the less she has to live on later in life.

While there has been little coverage of the impact of this provision of the tax bill in the Montana press, reports across the country, from Florida to Oregon, show that seniors are deeply worried about how this bill will affect them. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch weighed in, arguing that it will devastate millions of families:

But for millions of families, even doubling the standard deduction won’t offset the extraordinary cost of paying for long-term nursing care for loved ones, cancer treatment not covered by insurance, or caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease, autism or profound disabilities. For them, the medical expense tax deduction is the difference between bankruptcy and scraping by.

Even the right-wing Townhall.com criticized the decision to end the provision:

The repeal of this exemption is not only onerous, it is a cruel measure at a time when a taxpayer experiences a major medical expense such as organ replacement or cancer treatment or where a chronically ill person or their dependents have to pay out a high measure, if not all of their income, for daily subsistence, only to have that income suddenly taxed fully under the new proposal.

And, of course, because House Republicans are as ignorant as they are cruel, the bill is likely to cost the federal government more money than it saves by bankrupting seniors. From Health Affairs:

With the elimination of the medical expense deduction, many individuals receiving LTSS would diminish their personal resources more quickly to cover their medical expenses and become more likely to qualify for Medicaid. This would ultimately cause an increase in federal government spending, an increase in reliance on government programs, and increased burden on state Medicaid systems that are already strained. Millions of taxpayers will be forced to look to Medicaid for support.

So why did Greg Gianforte vote for a measure that will force families into bankruptcy, cruelly undermine the autonomy and health of the chronically ill, and increase the burden on the Medicaid system? The Washington Post has the answer: to pay for “7 percent of the cost of reducing the tax rate for corporations from 35 percent to 20 percent.”

No wonder Representative Gianforte is too afraid to have a meeting with his constituents.

This bill is bad for Montana. Let  Greg Gianforte know his tax cut isn’t important than the lives of Montanans who struggle with long-term illnesses.

Others in the Gianforte-Daines Tax Bill Series:

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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