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Op Ed: Tennessee Health Organizations, Practitioners Speak Out About Senate Tax Bill's Impact on Tennesseans' Health


Tennessee representatives of several major health organizations held a teleconference today to warn that tax reform proposals currently moving through Congress could hurt the health care of millions of Americans and raise costs for families with serious medical needs. Participating organizations included the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Family Voices of Tennessee, the National Organization for Rare Disorders and an emergency room physician from Vanderbilt University.

Participants presented the perspectives of several of the more than twenty national patient advocacy organizations and medical and health care industry groupsthat have issued statements opposing the tax reform bill, which, if passed, could reach President Trump's desk before the end of the year. They oppose the bill because, according to the Congressional Budget Office, it will cut health care coverage and raise the medical expenses for millions of ordinary families, including thousands of Tennesseans.

Lynn Williams of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network explained that the tax bill will jeopardize coverage for many people with pre-existing conditions. "By definition, that means cancer patients and cancer survivors," Williams said.

Sarah Sampson, from Family Voices of Tennessee, an organization of parents of children with special health care needs, described the impact of the bill on families with a member who requires caregiving. These families will no longer be able to deduct caregiving expenses, a major item on their taxes. The bill also eliminates tax incentives for pharmaceutical researchers to develop drugs to treat rare disorders, and that we will return to a time when there was little or no research into therapies for such diseases.

Dr. Terry Jo Bichell, represented the National Organization for Rare Disorders on the call. She described her experience as a nursing professional, the mother of a son with one rare disorder and the daughter of a father with another. There are 660,000 Tennesseans with rare disorders. The tax bill will make coverage for many of these patients more expensive, if they can get it at all.

Dr. Andrew Pfeffer, a Nashville emergency room physician with Vanderbilt Medical Center, warned that there is no real difference between what the Congress is now about to enact and the failed health bills that the public soundly rejected months ago. The changes will make health care and health coverage worse for all, because destabilizing the insurance market will increase everyone's costs. He pointed out that the tax bill is so bad that it has unified groups in opposition, like doctors and insurance companies that often disagree on major health issues.

The tax bill will add $1.5 trillion to the national deficit. Congressional leaders say they will cut from Medicaid, Medicare and other health programs to make up that amount. The panelists warned that this would hurt all Americans, and urged Tennesseans to contact their elected officials to express concern about the bill and ask them to vote against it.


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