American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following statement today on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act approved by the Senate:
"From where we sit, the Senate's tax reform bill has three strikes against it. It calls for the repeal of the health insurance mandate, it takes away the charitable tax deduction from millions of Americans, and it could set in motion $150 billion in cuts to domestic programs, including Medicare and the Prevention Fund. All of these provisions will have an impact on Americans who face the serious challenge of cardiovascular disease - and on this association's ability to serve them.
Our first concern is the section of the bill that would dismantle the health insurance mandate of the Affordable Care Act. If the requirement to carry adequate health insurance disappears, so will the health care coverage of many Americans. As insurance rolls decrease, premiums will rise an average of 10 percent. Paying more for health insurance will be a heavy weight to carry if you have a pre-existing condition like heart disease or stroke. We fervently believe this provision should be rejected and removed from the final legislation.
Secondly, the wallets of Americans will take another hit with the limits placed on charitable deductions by this bill. Currently, the tax deduction for donations encourages people to give their money to their favorite causes. But under this legislation, more than 30 million taxpayers will not be able to claim the charitable deduction and only the wealthiest donors will be able to make tax-exempt donations. As a result, it is estimated that donations to charities could drop by $12 to $20 billion annually. Individual charitable contributions are a critical lifeline for communities where government budgets continue to shrink. Taking away the incentives for this type of giving will cause many Americans who need the most, to lose the most.
Finally, unless Congress acts soon to waive them, this legislation will result in huge federally-mandated cuts known as "sequestration" Medicare support for providers would be slashed by $25 billion, and the Public Health and Prevention Fund would simply cease to exist. These drastic cuts would have a devastating effect on Americans suffering from heart disease or stroke.
With these three strikes against it, Congress should count this bill out. We urge the House and Senate to emerge from conference with legislation that does not penalize Americans who need affordable health insurance, offers incentives to everyone to give to the charity of their choice, and keeps intact the domestic programs that help support the heart health of our nation.