News from the Capitol
IRS Announces 2019 HSA Limits
The IRS has announced that for 2019, the minimum deductible for a qualifying high-deductible health plan will remain at $1,350 for individuals and $2,700 for families. The annual limit on deductible contributions will increase to $3,500 for individuals and $7,000 for family coverage – increases of $50 and $100 respectively.
Additional Increases: Annual out-of-pocket expenses will increase by $100 for individual coverage for a maximum limit of $6,750 in 2019. Family coverage will increase by $200 in 2019 to a $13,500 maximum.
The Good Samaritan Charitable Physicians’ Services Act
Congressman Daniel Webster (R-FL) has introduced ‘‘The Good Samaritan Charitable Physicians’ Services Act of 2018’’ in the House of Representatives [H.R. 5856]. It’s aimed directly at the dire need to provide healthcare services for the nations’ poorest citizens. Under the proposed law, medical professionals who offer free medical care for low-income Americans would receive a tax break for each low-income patient they treat for free.
According to Dan Weber, president of the Association of Mature American Citizens, which has been lobbying for such legislation since last year, the senior advocacy organization conducted a survey among doctors and nurse practitioners. The poll asked if they would be willing to participate in such a plan and the great majority said they would. Weber noted that the tax break is likely to attract medical professionals at a rapid pace, providing free services to as many as 7 million needy people.
“Obamacare has failed to provide healthcare to millions of Americans and it is time for Congress to find new solutions to this growing problem. The Good Samaritan Charitable Physicians Services act will provide low-income individuals and families without insurance a new source for healthcare and help to create a doctor-patient relationship missing in our current system. I encourage every member of Congress to cosponsor this legislation to help low-income families across the country,” Weber said in a statement.
In a recent opinion article by Weber, he said: “Currently, while the IRS permits physicians and nurse practitioners to deduct pro bono services provided to 501(c)(3) charitable services institution, it does not allow them to deduct pro bono services offered to individuals in clinics and offices. Congress should pass – and President Trump should approve – legislation that provides a pro bono tax deduction as a method of providing ‘no cost’ medical care services for up to 20 low-income or poor citizens annually who are not presently covered by insurance and rely on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program [CHIP].”
One of the things that makes such a program ideal is the fact that it would not require the establishment of a costly bureaucratic infrastructure to put it in place, Weber added. All that would be needed is for the IRS to create the necessary forms for participating medical professionals to claim their deductions.
VA Mission Act
Last week, the Senate approved the VA Mission Act, a bill that will allow qualified veterans to access private sector health care. Its passage – in a 92-5 vote – is a victory for President Trump, who has promised to expand health care for veterans outside of the VA.
In 2014, an alarming report by the Veteran Administration’s inspector general, Richard J. Griffin, found evidence that veterans wait times in Phoenix were almost five times as long as originally reported by hospital administrators. Griffin said the falsification of records and the manipulation of medical wait lists was widespread within the VA’s 150 national medical centers. The result was the untimely death of dozens of veterans, many of whom never saw a doctor. The Veterans Choice Program was created in the aftermath to enable the more than eight million US veterans to seek care privately under certain conditions. Of the total $51 billion provided in the VA Mission Act, the Choice Program will receive $5.2 billion, enabling it to remain afloat.