Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Slaughter: Eric Walker (202) 815-4884
Doggett: Amanda Tyler (202) 225-4865
After Push By Reps. Slaughter and Doggett, Treasury and IRS Release Guidance Allowing Domestic Violence Survivors to Access ACA Benefits
Enrollment Deadline Extended To May 31 for Survivors of Domestic Violence
WASHINGTON - Today, after a push by Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), an original author of the Violence Against Women Act, and Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, the United States Department of Treasury and Internal Revenue Service released guidance that will allow domestic violence survivors to access ACA benefits.
Last week, Representatives Slaughter and Doggett, along with 77 of their colleagues, called on the Treasury Department to allow survivors of domestic violence equal access to health care under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Treasury regulations released in May 2012 required married couples to file joint income tax returns to obtain premium tax credits. Under the Affordable Care Act, low-and-middle-income Americans, defined as individuals earning less than $44,200 (four times the poverty rate) and families of four earning less than $90,100, are eligible for premium assistance tax credits when purchasing insurance on the individual market.
Today, the Treasury Department sent a letter to Representatives Slaughter and Doggett saying that the Department and IRS were releasing guidance providing that "a married individual who is living apart from his or her spouse, and who is unable to file a joint return as a result of domestic abuse, will be permitted to claim a premium tax credit for 2014 while filing a tax return with a filing status of married filing separately." For partners who may be financially dependent on an abusive partner, this guidance will remove an undue burden that could subject survivors to further danger. In order to accommodate this change, Health and Human Services has extended the enrollment deadline for survivors of domestic violence until May 31.
View the letter from Treasury here. http://louise.house.gov/uploads/Slaughter%203.26.14.pdf
"Survivors of domestic violence should not have to depend on their abuser to gain access to affordable health care, and I'm glad the Treasury Department will ensure that no longer happens," Rep. Slaughter said. "Before the ACA, eight states and the District of Columbia allowed insurance companies to label domestic violence as a pre-existing condition http://www.huffingtonpost.com/amy-goodman/domestic-violence-a-pre-eb48391 1.html and subsequently denied coverage to battered spouses - the insurance companies figured if someone had been beaten up once, they would be beaten up again and would be too expensive to insure. Now that the ACA ended that insidious practice, Treasury must quickly implement this rule so these survivors are able to access the health care they need and end the cycle of abuse without these unnecessary barriers."
"Domestic abuse victims finally have some assurance that they can access tax credits to make health insurance affordable without relying upon those who abused them. Today's dual Administration announcement means that they have two additional months to use this information in choosing the best insurance policy," Rep. Doggett said. "I appreciate the prompt response to our congressional request, but Treasury now needs to move forward more expeditiously to get final regulations adopted this year."
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics http://www.bjs.gov/content/intimate/victims.cfm#incgen, the likelihood of domestic abuse goes up as incomes go down. Numerous studies http://www.vawnet.org/applied-research-papers/print-document.php'docid=297 2&findtype=Special%20Topics have shown economic dependence is a primary reason women stay with or return to an abusive partner. Women who are more economically dependent on an abusive partner are also less likely to pursue restraining orders. Independent access to healthcare is crucial to breaking the cycle of abuse and economic dependency.
Please find the full letter from Reps. Slaughter and Doggett to Treasury below:
Dear Secretary Lew:
We write to express our strong concern regarding victims of domestic abuse, who are currently unable to fully realize the benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It has come to our attention that some of these victims are facing unique barriers to qualifying for lower monthly premiums as they search for and purchase health care coverage. We join our Senate colleague, Senator Mark Begich of Alaska, in urging your swift action on this issue.
With just two weeks before the enrollment deadline and no clear guidance, we urge you to provide guidance to these individuals now and to issue proposed regulations promptly to prevent ongoing confusion in future open enrollment periods. Specifically, we ask you to implement policies that would allow victims of domestic abuse to access the full amount of premium assistance tax credits for which they qualify, even when they choose to file a tax return separately from their spouse.
To protect themselves from the ongoing threat of violent abuse, it is common for victims of domestic violence to file taxes separately from their spouse. However, the current regulations implementing Section 36B of the Affordable Care Act provide that married taxpayers who do not file a joint return are not eligible for premium tax credits. In its final regulations regarding premium tax credits, issued nearly two years ago, the Treasury Department acknowledged this issue and stated that it "intends to propose additional regulations regarding eligibility for the premium tax credit to address circumstances in which domestic abuse, abandonment, or similar circumstances create obstacles to the ability of taxpayers to file joint returns." Individuals who have endured domestic violence and those who are helping them in enroll in health insurance plans still await these additional regulations and guidance for making coverage decisions.
We supported health care reform for many reasons, including provisions that would help break the cycle of abuse. Prior to the ACA, eight states and the District of Columbia considered domestic violence a pre-existing condition and survivors could be denied coverage on those grounds. In addition to making health coverage more affordable, the ACA requires many insurance plans to cover preventative services with no cost-sharing. These services include screening for interpersonal and domestic violence, acts which can lead to chronic health problems, injury, and death.
It is our hope that the goals of affordable health care provision and domestic violence prevention are fully realized by proper implementation.
House Committee On Rules
Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter