The House and Senate have approved different versions of tax reform and now the conference committee is preparing to release the final compromise version, which both houses must then pass before the measure goes to the President for signature. There has been a strong effort to move these bills through the legislative process in order to put a bill on the President's desk by December 25.
The American Counseling Association has been concerned about provisions that would allow the taxing of graduate student tuition waivers, the elimination of the individual mandates for health care, and a number of additional provisions that have the possibility of impacting ACA as a not-for-profit business.
The result of this week’s special election in Alabama for a Senate seat set off furious deal-making in the tax reform conference committee. Details are being released today. So far, we know that the House-passed provisions that would eliminate the student loan interest deduction and would tax tuition waivers will NOT be included in the final bill. We consider this a win for ACA and for its graduate student members.
Unfortunately, the elimination of the Obamacare individual insurance mandate looks like it will remain in the conference bill. The individual mandate requires a majority of people to obtain insurance coverage somewhere. The mandate is important because many younger, healthier individuals are needed in the plan in order to keep costs down, since they are generally healthier and a better insurance risk. This provision would allow them to avoid the penalty if they do not have insurance from some source. The Obamacare law remains on the books, but this is a blow to its insurance pool. A healthy insurance pool is an asset to professional counselors because their clients will have lower insurance costs, better insurance coverage, and will be more able to seek counseling assistance as a result.
We believe the final bill also will include a provision that will eliminate the medical-expense deduction for families in two years. While this may seem like a deduction that may not affect Licensed Professional Counselors, many of our members know American families use this deduction to pay for rehabilitative services for their disabled children. These are services provide by professional counselors—and many Americans could not afford this care without the deduction.
The official version of the conference committee’s bill has not been released because of last-minute concerns about the size of the child care credit and other provisions. No Senate Democrats are expected to vote for the tax bill, which means the Republicans need 50 of their 52 members to vote for it.
As soon as the official version of the final bill is released, the ACA Government Affairs staff will take a closer look at what the conferees in the House and Senate have agreed on.