Federal Legislation

 

 

 

December 13, 2017

Continuing resolution extends federal budget
On Dec. 7th, Congress passed another “continuing resolution,” or CR, to fund the federal government through Dec. 22nd. At that point, we expect Congress will pass another short-term CR to take the federal government into early 2018, when they are expected to revisit budget discussions.

CHIP reauthorization on the horizon?
On Dec. 12th, a bipartisan group of 12 governors called on congressional leaders to act quickly to reauthorize the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), whose funding authorization expired on Sept. 30th. CHIP provides health coverage for more than 9 million low-income children, including children with mental health conditions. With support on both sides of the aisle, Congress is negotiating how to pay for the program.

New development: Congress did include a provision in the Dec. 7th continuing resolution to offer some limited, short-term assistance to CHIP programs. While this may help some states to fund their CHIP programs a bit longer, it does not direct any new money for 2018. Read more about the short-term emergency funding and which states face the most immediate funding threats here.

Federal ISMICC to release report
On Dec. 14th, the federal Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC), mandated in last year’s 21st Century Cures Act, will release its report to Congress with recommendations on how federal agencies can better serve people with serious mental illness. NAMI CEO Mary Giliberti serves on this committee as 1 of only 14 non-federal members. Immediately following the release, the ISMICC will hold its second meeting at 10:30 AM. Tune in to watch the meeting.

Tax reform efforts continue
The House and Senate passed different tax reform bills, so the bills are now going to a conference committee, where both chambers will work to reconcile the major differences in the two bills. In both bills, there are proposals that would hurt people with mental illness—and NAMI organizations. As congressional leaders debate a final bill, NAMI advocates need to tell Congress to protect people with mental illness and oppose any tax reform bill that:

  • Results in higher health insurance costs. If the final bill removes fines for people who do not have health insurance (also known as the individual mandate), this will increase the number of uninsured Americans by an estimated 13 million. When fewer healthy people are insured, premiums increase—making insurance less affordable for people with mental health conditions.
    (Senate bill)
  • Ends the tax deduction for medical expenses. Repealing the medical expense deduction – which can include the cost of such things as visits to mental health care providers, inpatient stays or mental health medications – will harm people with serious mental illness who have very high medical expenses.
    (House bill)
  • Decreases the supply of affordable housing. A repeal of the tax exemption on private activity bonds – coupled with reductions in the corporate tax rate – would result in an estimated 950,000 fewer units of affordable rental housing, according to the National Housing Trust. This will cause even greater challenges for people with serious mental illness who rely on Section 811 housing.
    (House bill)
  • Reduces the incentive for charitable giving. Increases in the standard deduction on income taxes are projected to reduce the number of people itemizing deductions, including charitable contributions. The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that this this will dramatically lower Americans’ charitable giving to nonprofits, including NAMI organizations.
    (Both bills)
  • Politicizes non-profit organizations. A repeal of the Johnson Amendment would allow non-profits (like a NAMI affiliate) to endorse or oppose candidates. NAMI organizations could be pressured, including by donors, to take a partisan stance, jeopardizing bipartisan support among members and elected officials.
    (House bill)

 

Recently, the Senate and House passed two different tax reform bills that would impact people with mental illness. Senate and House leaders are now working out what they want in a final tax reform bill.

We need your help.

There are 3 things that could end up in the final tax bill that hurt people with mental illness:

  1. Higher health insurance costs. If the final bill removes fines for people who do not have health insurance (also known as the individual mandate), this will increase the number of uninsured Americans by an estimated 13 million. When fewer healthy people are insured, premiums increase—making insurance less affordable for people with mental health conditions.
  2. No more tax deductions for medical expenses. Repealing the medical expense deduction—which can include the costs of visits to psychiatrists, inpatient stays, and medications—would harm people, including people with serious mental illness, who have very high medical expenses.
  3. Less affordable housing. Too many people with mental illness lack affordable housing. A repeal of the tax exemption on private activity bonds would result in an estimated 950,000 fewer units of affordable rental housing. This will cause even greater challenges for people with serious mental illness who rely on Section 811 housing.

We can’t let this happen. Tax reform shouldn’t hurt people with mental illness.

Tell your members of Congress this is one present you don’t want this holiday season.

Email now.