In less than a month, if Congress does nothing, a hard Medicare therapy cap returns on Medicare beneficiaries. In 1997, Congress passed the Balanced Budget Act, which created an annual financial limit on physical therapy and speech-language pathology services, and a separate “cap” on occupational therapy, for all outpatient settings. Since 1997, Congress has acted 16 times to prevent implementation of the cap, including the 2006 creation of an exceptions process allowing patients to receive medically necessary services exceeding the annual cap amount. Historically, Congress has passed short-term extensions of the therapy cap exceptions process along with the sustainable growth rate (SGR) extension. In 2015 the therapy cap exceptions process received an extension through December 31, 2017.
Recently the Congressional Committees that handle healthcare agreed to a bipartisan, bicameral policy that would permanently repeal the hard cap on therapy services. This policy will protect patients, provide better care, and allow physical therapists to treat their patients at a higher level. If this is not passed, a hard cap on therapy services goes into effect on January 1, 2018. We need to get this across the finish line and must remind Congress of the importance of this issue. Without repealing the therapy cap, Medicare beneficiaries are at risk of not receiving the needed physical therapy services that our profession provides.
Ask the Tax Legislation Conference Committee to Preserve Student Loan Interest Deductions and Tax Exemptions for Tuition Assistance and Waivers
The House passed H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that include the repeal of the current Student Loan Interest Deduction and would convert tuition assistance and waivers to taxable status. The Senate does not have either provision in their version of the bill. However, the tax legislation conference committee has started, and there is a likelihood that both can be included in a final bill through negotiation; your representative has been chosen as a member of this committee.
As passed by the House, Section 1204 would repeal the current Student Loan Interest Deduction (SLID). Under current law, any individual with income up to $80,000 (or $160,000 on a joint return) repaying student loans can deduct up to $2,500 in student loan interest paid. Eliminating this provision would mean that the cost of student loans for borrowers would increase at a time when affordable college education is increasingly becoming out of reach for many Americans.
In addition, the House legislation would also convert tuition assistance and waivers to taxable status; subsection D of U.S. Tax Code section 117 states tuition reductions and waivers for graduate teaching and research assistants are tax exempt. Elimination of tuition reductions and waivers for graduate teaching and research assistantships would have a negative effect on the physical therapy profession, especially for those who are considering pursuing post-professional graduate degrees.
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