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Public Statements

Modifying Income Calculation for Health Care Programs

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. CROWLEY. I thank my friend from Michigan and the ranking member of the Committee on Ways and Means for yielding me this time.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this bill. As we look at this redefinition of terms under the Affordable Care Act, let me take a minute or 2 or 3 and go to the facts on the health care law as it exists today.

Some people on the other side of the aisle and in the media continue to refer to this provision that we're talking about today as a glitch. As we learned from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Tax at the markup of this bill in the Ways and Means Committee, this provision was not a glitch.

Again, the other side will report that this was a glitch in the law. It was not a glitch. It was written into the law deliberately, and anyone who actually read the bill would have known that. This language was deliberately put into the health care law to expand affordable health insurance and will particularly help early retirees between the ages of 62 and 64, as well as Americans on disability.

But, again, for those of us who support this law and supported the passage of this law, we have heard a lot of distortions and a lot of falsehoods and outright lies about what is in this bill. That is why I encourage all my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, especially those of you who are new to Congress who were not here when the bill was passed, to read the bill. I bet that if you did so, you'd like a lot about what is in the bill.

There are no death panels in this bill, no government takeover of health care in this bill, and bureaucrats will not be in the operating room with your surgeon. These are all falsehoods spread about the law, and again, people who read the law know that these claims simply are not true.

But here is what is in the law. I think we need to be reminded. No longer will insurance companies be able to decide whether or not you or your family deserve care based on cost or profit-making; no, these decisions will be made by doctors and patients. That's no glitch. Children can no longer be denied coverage on their parents' private health insurance because of a preexisting condition like asthma, which is very prevalent in my district in the Bronx. This was no glitch. Children can stay on their parents' private health insurance until the age of 26, which has led to over 1 million more young adults being covered this year. It's no glitch.

No mandates on any employer with under 50 employees--none, zero. No mandating to any employers with under 50 employees, also deliberate by the writers of this bill. Prescription drugs for seniors are being made more affordable, and this year, seniors get deep discounts on their brand-name drugs if they fall into the prescription drug coverage gap, a black hole that seniors fall into if they need more than a few thousand dollars' worth of medications annually, which millions of our seniors do. It was no glitch--no glitch.

And, finally, something else in the bill--people will know if they read it: Young families with private health insurance can no longer be denied coverage or care under the disgusting term known as ``lifetime limits.'' If a young mother gives birth to a severely ill child, there are no lifetime limits. Yes, the practice of telling young parents that not only is their newborn severely ill but that their private insurance company won't pay for any more hospitalization care because it's too costly is over. That's no glitch. Those parents will be able to get their sick child the care that he or she needs without selling their home, without declaring bankruptcy, and without having to fight their health insurance company tooth and nail to provide for their child. Rather, they can focus on their child's well-being. It's no glitch. It's in the law. Democrats put it there deliberately.

What I can't understand is why my Republican colleagues will continue to work to rip away health care, from private insurance to Medicare and Medicaid. But they refuse to even acknowledge that they, themselves, benefit from taxpayer-funded health care in this Congress. I have a bill that will require every Member of Congress to publicly disclose if they are receiving the taxpayer-subsidized health care benefits that are provided to all Federal Government employees, including Members of Congress. My bill has not been brought up for a debate or a vote yet, even though it's a simple bill to make more information available to the American people about the benefits that we in Congress enjoy.

Finally, I want to address another serious issue about this bill and how it could affect tens of millions of middle class Americans. During the committee debate on this bill, it was certified by the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation that Social Security benefits generally are not added back in determining one's modified adjusted gross income for other benefits that they receive, such as IRA contributions, student loan interest, and adoption tax benefits. But we are changing that definition today for consideration of who can obtain tax credits to purchase private health insurance. I argued, and no one corrected me during that debate, that this bill could be the Republicans' first step on a slippery slope to limit middle class Americans' ability to claim certain deductions for retirement security, college tuition expenses, and even adoptive assistance--yes, the first step on the Republican plan to raise taxes on working class families. And this morning, my fears are being proven correct. Right now, the Oversight Committee is discussing a report they wrote questioning the tax cuts provided to working families to afford health insurance in the Affordable Care Act.

They don't argue that the tax cuts are too limited or too weak; they actually argue that the tax cuts are too generous to working families and that too many Americans will benefit from tax cuts that will make obtaining private health insurance cheaper. The Oversight Committee report states that the health care law will ``take millions of people off the tax rolls.'' And let me continue from the report that says Americans receiving these tax cuts in the health care law will have their taxes reduced and ``will no longer pay the cost of government by contributing federal income taxes.''

What that means is because the tax cuts in the law will lower taxes for people so they can afford health insurance. It's amazing how tax cuts for millionaires are sacrosanct, but tax cuts for working people so they can get affordable health care coverage so their kids can see a doctor are somehow evil. Let's end the hypocrisy with respect to health care and Medicare for our constituents and end the lies about the Affordable Health Care Act, and let's not pass this bill.

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Mr. CROWLEY. If you will continue with me under my time, would you then suggest that we now do that for other areas of the Code not pertaining to the lower class or the poor in this country? I'm not suggesting we do that. I'm talking specifically of the middle class.

Should we extend that logic or maybe enhance your bill to include IRA contributions, student loan interest and adoption tax credits, which are focused on the middle class?

Again, we're not talking about the poor. They're covered. We're talking about individuals who are struggling to survive right now in this economy, who are struggling to put food on their tables, to pay for their student loans or their children's student loans, to put away money for retirement, who maybe have the opportunity for the first time in their lives to afford health insurance. Under your bill, you would take those credits away. Are you suggesting that we take them away?

It's a slippery slope. You start here. Let's just look at the overall Tax Code. We'll change major portions then.

What about the IRA contributions that that person would be making? What about the student loan interest, the adoption tax credits? Should we also limit their ability to take advantage of those provisions of the law?

The silence is deafening. The silence is deafening because the reality is, Mr. Speaker, this is a slippery slope. You take away opportunities for the middle class to afford health insurance under the Affordable Care Act by whittling away at it. It's the middle class who are hurt here.

We're not talking about the poor; we're not talking about the least amongst us. We're talking about the middle class that under the Affordable Care Act would have the opportunity to afford insurance for the first time, and this legislation, this legislation, I can't even say as well intentioned as it may be, it is not well intentioned.

There is nothing about this bill that is well intentioned. It is simply to take away a provision that this Congress and our President made available for the first time in people's lives. They want to take it away for the middle class.

Let's put everything aside--that's what we're doing today--and I'm suggesting maybe this is just the first step, that maybe the next step will be limiting the ability of individuals to put away money for retirement in their IRA, limiting the availability for students or the parents to pay for a college education, and lastly, and probably most egregious, the adoption tax credits, taking them away. I mean, that's where this is going.

I thank my colleague from Michigan once again for yielding me the time.

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Mr. CROWLEY. I thank the gentleman from Michigan once again.

It's been said on the floor, once again, this bill has bipartisan support. I don't doubt that it probably will at the end of the day, but somehow that's the magic formula for doing the right thing. I would suggest there are many things that were done on this floor that enjoy bipartisan support. The Iraq war, unfortunately, had bipartisan support. I was one of those who supported it. I think many today would suggest that maybe that wasn't the right thing to do.

Just as an example, the point I was making with my friend, the gentleman from Texas, this magic number of $63,000 or $64,000 as being a wonderful income, not if you live in Queens or the Bronx; you're barely making it. I'm not talking about people who are destitute. I'm not talking about people who are suffering. We know they exist. Many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would like to do away with the Medicaid system. Many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would like to do away with the Medicare system. I'm not suggesting that you're talking about this in the bill.

But what I am suggesting, though, is that you think that people making $63,000 or $64,000 are living high on the hog. They're not. Not in my district they're not. They can barely afford their home. They can barely afford to send their children to school. They can barely afford to put food on the table, and many of them cannot even afford ownership of a health insurance policy to take care of their children let alone themselves. And that's what I'm talking about, giving people that opportunity.

I don't care if the President is going to sign this bill. It doesn't make it right. It doesn't make it right. We should not be degrading. We should not be degrading hardworking Americans, middle class Americans who are trying to do the best for their families.

This bill should have never gotten out of committee, and it shouldn't be on the floor in the manner it is.

I thank the gentleman from Michigan for again yielding.

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