This afternoon, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) which adopts a number of policy recommendations made by AMAC and takes additional measures to support America’s seniors. Passage of the CARES Act temporarily concludes a whirlwind of rapid legislative and executive action during the past several weeks. AMAC Action’s team worked in close consultation with Congressional leaders and the White House during the coronavirus bill negotiations which were frequently torpedoed by Democrats’ demands to pile on pork unrelated to the coronavirus crisis and oftentimes stretched late into the night. The final bill is the product of compromise and not perfect but our team supports the President and his need to take swift action to address our current health crisis. The White House and Congress adopted a number of AMAC’s formal recommendations in the CARES Act which the President just signed including:
- To repeal or defer IRA Required Minimum Distributions. Required Minimum Distributions (RMD) limit the ability of seniors to make wise investment decisions based on market actions. AMAC’s government affairs team told Congress that government regulation should not force anyone, especially seniors, to liquidate savings in a “personal” account. In line with AMAC’s recommendation, a temporary waiver has been put in place on Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) rules for IRA’s in the calendar year 2020.
- To suspend the penalties for early withdrawals from retirement accounts during 2020. AMAC urged Congress to renew Section 202 of the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2019 which would help those individuals and families facing increased economic hardship as a result of the pandemic. Direct cash payments to most Americans are set to go out in a number of weeks but in the meantime for retirement savers who need immediate liquidity, the CARES Act removes the 10 percent penalty for early withdrawal for distributions up to $100,000.
- To protect Social Security benefits from federal governmental garnishment. Social Security benefits are off limits to nearly all creditors, but not the federal government. Uncle Sam can garnish Social Security benefits for certain debts, including federal student loan debt cosigned by retirees. Our legislative team has consistently recommended permanently fixing this issue to protect all Americans’ social security regardless outside of their financial circumstances. We were pleased to see Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announce earlier this week that the department will stop garnishing Social Security benefits to pay for student loans in default.
- Preventing price fixing and keeping patients’ options open. The AMAC Action team worked to ensure that harmful language that would price fix fees for direct primary care physicians, limit how funds in health savings accounts (HSA) could be used and restrict patient options was removed from the CARES Act. We also worked to protect patients by having language that would have established federal benchmarking for surprise medical billing arbitration stricken from the bill. AMAC Action is advocating for a fair and equitable arbitration process that would use an independent, third-party database of private claims data to negotiate hospital and physician fees, not fees chosen by insurers and mandated for use by the federal government.
- To enact principles from the Physician Pro Bono Care Act, H.R. 856. Our team continues to push Congress to pass the Physician Pro Bono Care Act HR. 856 which provides a tax deduction for physicians offering charity care while also protecting these physicians from frivolous lawsuits. A key provision adopted in the CARES Act protects health care professionals from nuisance suits for providing volunteer medical help during COVID-19.
Other support in the recently signed CARES Act includes:
- Direct support for seniors and mature Americans. Many Americans will receive cash payments of $1,200 for singles and $2,400 for married couples plus $500 per dependent child. AMAC worked hard to make sure that you are eligible for a direct payment even you claim Social Security Insurance benefits. The cash payments will be “phased out” starting with an adjusted gross income of $75,000 single and $150,000 for married couples, based on your 2019 or 2018 tax returns. If you did not file returns and are on social security, the IRS can use your Form SSA-1099 Social Security Benefit Statement or your Form RRB-1099 Social Security Equivalent Benefit Statement to send your check. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that checks will be sent “within three weeks” to people for whom the IRS has information. According to the IRS, if you have received a tax refund in the last two years by direct deposit, that’s where your money will be sent. If not, the IRS will mail a check to your “last known address.” For information or details on your personal eligibility please consult with your financial professionals.
- Keeping small businesses operating. The CARES Act provides over $300 billion for America’s small businesses to keep their workers on payroll in the form of refundable Small Business Administration loans. The bill also allows small businesses to defer tax filing and certain tax payments. These are temporary provision and a deferral, not a tax forgiveness program. AMAC supports providing relief to keep main street’s doors open and making sure that America’s recovery is driven by small businesses which employ the majority of the work force.
- Providing urgent resources for hospitals. The CARES Act provides funding of $145 billion for urgent resources to doctors and hospitals that are quickly being filled with coronavirus patients. Much needed resources like masks, ventilators, diagnostics, and other equipment will be allocated to hospitals, doctors and other frontline providers. AMAC fully supports making sure our doctors are well equipped to care for their patients.
- Expansion and promotion of telehealth. The CARES Act contains provisions to expand and promote telehealth which will help patients visit with their physicians from the comfort of their own homes. Among other improvements, the legislation allows high-deductible health plan holders with a health savings account (HSA) to cover telehealth services prior to them reaching the deductible. AMAC supports the expansion of telehealth services in the bill which is aimed at increasing access for patients who may have the COVID-19 virus while keeping others safe from potential exposure.
The Treasury Department and IRS are still developing taxpayer guidance on how parts of the legislation will be administered so please be sure to consult with your tax professionals or accountant on your own personal financial situation relating to all recently passed legislation. You can visit our dedicated COVID-19 Resources page frequently at: https://amac.us/coronavirus/ for the latest updates.
We believe like the President does that recovery is on the horizon and that the country will come out of this crisis stronger and more united than before. As AMAC continues to push for your priorities in Washington, DC, we are encouraged to see Congress enact these common-sense policy changes. Our active membership played a large role in helping us achieve these policy wins so thank you for staying engaged and we look forward to keeping you updated on more positive developments out of Washington, DC.
-Your AMAC Action Team