August 21, 2000
Help for Those with Terminal Illnesses
This year we have heard proposals by various people in Washington advocating more government control over our health care system. These proposals almost invariably call for more tax dollars to be sent to Washington, so bureaucrats can make decisions about your medical care rather than having you choose. The approach is almost always the same- send your money to Washington, where bureaucrats decide what to do with your dollars. I advocate a different approach, however. I believe my constituents (and all Americans) should keep more of their own paychecks, leaving them with greater money and choices when addressing their own health care concerns.
As a physician, I am especially concerned with those who face terrible terminal illnesses such as cancer, AIDS, and heart disease. Patients facing terminal illnesses need all of their financial resources available to them to fight their disease and pay their medical bills. Yet we continue to impose payroll taxes on citizens with terminal illnesses to fund a retirement they may never live to see.
Accordingly, I have introduced the "Cancer and Terminal Illness Patient Health Care Act" (H.R. 4265). This legislation would exempt all persons diagnosed with terminal illnesses (or any form of cancer) from the employee portion of payroll taxes for as long as they continue to suffer with their illness or incur significant health care costs resulting from the illness. Compassion and common sense require that we adopt a policy that stops taking needed resources away from those suffering from terrible health problems. This legislation is a realistic approach to helping people pay for quality health care when they need it most.
An important provision of the "Cancer and Terminal Illness Patient Health Care Act" ensures that the exemption from payroll taxes provided by the Act does not adversely affect a qualifying individualís ability to collect benefits in the future. Individuals facing terminal illnesses need more of their own resources available to them to pay medical bills, but they should not be penalized if they survive their condition. Once their disease goes into remission and all related costs are paid, the individual resumes paying the payroll tax.
Similarly, I have introduced legislation designed to provide needed resources to parents struggling to pay for their terminally ill or disabled childrenís medical bills. The "Family Health Tax Cut Act" (H.R. 4799) allows families to deduct a portion of their health care expenses for dependent children. Specifically, the Act provides parents caring for a child with a disability, cancer, terminal illness, or other condition requiring specialized medical care with a tax credit of up to $3,000. Our tax laws permit businesses to deduct employee health care costs from their income taxes; surely families should be permitted the same deduction to free up more of their financial resources to pay for the medical bills of their seriously ill children. The deduction is especially critical to low-income families, many of whom do not have health insurance provided by their employers.
Both of these bills allow individuals who are suffering to keep more of their resources, rather than sending needed dollars to Washington. In my medical practice, I have spoken to patients suffering from terminal illnesses. Even when they have health coverage (and many do not), their disease puts a tremendous financial strain on them and their loved ones. The list of expenses they incur is nearly endless, ranging from transportation to care centers and hiring babysitters to watch their children to paying out-of-pocket costs for expensive drugs which are not fully covered. Family and friends can offer compassion and support, but Congress owes it to terminally ill persons to stop taking away the resources they need to fight cancer, AIDS, heart disease, and other terrible health problems. My hope is that citizens in my district (and my fellow legislators) who are truly interested in helping those with terminal illnesses will join me and support my legislation.