Senator Collins Urges Colleagues to Support Legislation to Help Americans with High Health Care Costs

Senators Collins and Cantwell’s bill has been endorsed by AARP

Millions of Americans have relied on the medical expense deduction, nearly half of whom have incomes of $50,000 or less


Click HERE to watch Senator Collins’ remarks.  Click HERE for a high-resolution video.

Click HERE to read Senator Collins’ remarks


Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) delivered remarks from the Senate floor urging her colleagues to support legislation she introduced with Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) to assist families who are struggling to afford high medical costs. 


Senator Collins began her remarks by discussing the ongoing partial shutdown that she strongly opposes.  She called on the president and her colleagues on both sides of the aisle to compromise on a plan that strengthens border security while allowing the hundreds of thousands of federal employees affected by the shutdown to return to work.  In the meantime, she emphasized the importance of Congress continuing to work on legislation like the Medical Expense Savings Act that will improve the lives of the American people.


Senators Collins and Cantwell’s bipartisan bill would provide financial relief for households that spend more than 7.5 percent of their income on medical expenses by allowing them to continue to deduct these costs from their tax bills.  Millions of Americans have relied on the medical expense deduction, nearly half of whom have incomes of $50,000 or less.  The burden of high medical expenses falls disproportionately on seniors and those with disabilities. 


“As we seek to reduce the cost of health care, we should also make every effort to ensure that we lower the tax burden on millions of vulnerable families—particularly seniors—facing large health care expenses,” said Senator Collins.  “I am proud that my provision temporarily restoring the income threshold to 7.5 percent for all taxpayers was included in the new tax law.  I urge my colleagues to support this next step to help increase the affordability of health care by permanently restoring this provision for all Americans."


“The medical expense deduction provides important tax relief that helps offset the cost of acute and chronic medical conditions for older Americans, children, and individuals with disabilities,” Joyce Rogers, AARP’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, wrote in a letter supporting the bill.  “The tax filers who claim the medical expense deduction have historically been age 50 or older and living with a chronic condition or illness.”


"The medical expense deduction provides needed financial relief for taxpayers with high health care costs, particularly those living with a disability, chronic condition or illness,” said Lori Parham, AARP Maine State Director.  “Those who rely on this deduction, most of whom are older, deserve the certainty of knowing the current deduction will continue to be there for them when they need it."


The medical expense deduction is vital for those who have pre-existing medical conditions, suffer chronic medical conditions, experience unexpected illnesses or injuries, or face costs for long-term care services that are not covered by insurance.


Several years ago, the income threshold for taxpayers to deduct their medical expenses increased from 7.5 percent to 10 percent.  In 2017, Senator Collins secured a provision to temporarily restore the income threshold for the medical expense deduction to 7.5 percent, but it expired at the end of 2018.  Unless Congress takes action, taxpayers will only be able to deduct medical expenses that exceed 10 percent of their income then whey file their 2019 taxes next year.


According to AARP, nearly 70 percent of taxpayers taking the medical expense deduction in 2014 reported income of $75,000 or less, and nearly half reported incomes of $50,000 or less.  In Maine, 35,764 residents claimed this deduction in 2014, while 18,788 of these individuals reported an income of $50,000 or less.  A 2016 survey of cancer survivors showed that one-third go into debt and of those more than half incurred more than $10,000 in expenses.