Since passing the House Budget using a legislative tactic they’ve previously described as “unconstitutional,” Republicans have begun their appropriations process by marking up legislation that would cut millions from federal safety net programs and middle class health care benefits in order to finance their $3 trillion giveaway to corporations and the richest Americans.
Under the Republican-approved budget, for instance, the House Ways & Means committee is instructed to reduce the deficit by $53 billion between 2013 and 2022 and members are not wasting any time going after the benefits that lower and middle class Americans rely on and block granting social programs to the states. First on the chopping block: are health care subsidies for middle class families earning up to $90,000 a year who will purchase insurance in the state-based exchanges, child care and related assistance for 4.4 million children, Meals On Wheels and other home-based services for nearly 1.7 million older Americans, and transportation services for almost 1 million disabled individuals.
During this morning’s hearing, Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) pressed the Joint Committee on Taxation on the consequences of the GOP’s health subsidy proposal — which would require families to pay back the government if their incomes fluctuate and dissuade people from claiming credits in the first place. Under current law, the premium support is paid out as an advance refundable amount to insurance companies based on an estimate of annual income (the assistance is available, on a sliding scale, to families of four making up to $90,000 a year). Should a family’s income change during the year, it will have to pay the government back a specific dollar amount come tax season. Congress has increased the amount since the law passed and under the current Republican proposal, “an individual would be liable for the full amount of the overpayment.”
The JCT found that the tax increase would lead 350,000 people to lose coverage and, as the National Women’s Law Center explained in a letter to Becerra, it would “especially hurt women”:
BECERRA: The letter from the National Women’s Law Center points out that eliminating this provision, which is called the safe harbor provision, would especially hurt women… A 2008 study by the Congressional Budget Office found that women experience more large changes in earnings from year to year than men. This suggests that women are more likely to have a difference in estimate actual income during the year and therefore more likely to repay a portion of the tax credit during the reconciliation. Eliminating the safe harbor by removing the repayment cap will leave women who enrolled in coverage but had an income change mid-year…vulnerable to an unaffordable tax bill. As a result hundreds of thousands of women will refuse coverage for fear of the repayment penalty.
Republicans have also proposed repealing the health care law in its entirety, which would result in 30 million Americans becoming uninsured.