Providers 'disappointed' as tax reform bill passes Senate

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The GOP's tax reform bill was passed by the Senate in a vote just before 2 a.m. Eastern Time on Saturday, sparking criticism from long-term care provider groups and consumer advocates alike for its potential impact on healthcare.

In a statement LeadingAge, which has expressed its concerns about the overhaul and the version passed by the House earlier this month, said the group opposes the bill and is “deeply disappointed.”

“Our overarching concern is the impact the bill will have on older adults and our non-profit members that serve them,” the statement reads. “We are also deeply concerned about the federal budget and on the future availability of essential services like Medicare, Medicaid, senior housing and home- and community-based services.”

The Center for Medicare Advocacy also bashed the bill's “rushed and secretive process” in a statement, noting that it adds $1 trillion to the national debt that will put programs like Medicare and Medicaid “in the cross-hairs of lawmakers who will use the excuse of growing debt to ‘restructure' or ‘reform' these programs by gutting them.”

“If this tax bill is signed into law, Medicare will face immediate, automatic and ongoing cuts - $25 billion in FY 2018 alone,” the group's statement reads. “This will disproportionately affect people over age 50 who are not yet eligible for Medicare.”

One of LeadingAge's primary concerns about the legislation, its elimination of medical expense deductions, was tempered by previous holdout Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), who said on Twitter Friday that the bill included her amendment to reduce the threshold for deducting medical costs. The amendment “helps people with high medical costs, particularly seniors [and] people with chronic conditions,” Collins said.

Collins also noted that she “received assurances … that no reduction in Medicare will be triggered” by the legislation.

The House and Senate bills will now head into the reconciliation process before a final version is ready for signing. GOP leaders may now turn their focus to cutting deficits through “welfare reform” targeting programs like Medicare and Social Security, according to some reports. Within the larger healthcare debate is disagreement over the future funding of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Authorization for the program ended Oct. 1, and some states have warned they will run out of money by January.