Aug 01 2013
ROCKEFELLER AND BROWN INTRODUCE BILL TO EXPAND AND PERMANENTLY EXTEND THE HEALTH COVERAGE TAX CREDIT
Failure to extend tax credit would force eligible jobless workers to pay significantly more for health coverage
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Subcommittee on Health Care, and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), also a member of the Senate Finance Committee, today introduced a bill to expand and permanently extend the Health Coverage Tax Credit (HCTC) included in the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) are also cosponsors.
This important tax credit helps American workers afford health coverage after they’ve lost their jobs to foreign outsourcing. Without Congressional action, the HCTC will expire at the end of 2013. The Senators’ bill, The Health Care Coverage for Displaced Workers Act, would permanently extend the HCTC so that it no longer requires constant reauthorization. The bill would expand the HCTC to 80 percent, a nearly ten percent increase from the current rate.
“The Health Coverage Tax Credit gives workers who lost their jobs to foreign outsourcing much needed relief in paying for their health care coverage. This cost can be an overwhelming strain on their pocketbooks, especially while they’re out of work,” said Rockefeller. “Permanently extending this credit is the right thing to do for these men and women who’ve spent their lives supporting the backbone of our economy.”
“This is about standing up for hardworking Americans who lost their jobs due to no fault of their own,” said Brown. “The HCTC ensures that the loss of a job doesn’t mean the loss of health coverage for workers who have lost their jobs due to unfair foreign trade. In the wake of new figures showing a record trade deficit with China, now is not the time to turn our backs on American workers.”
The HCTC is available to laid-off employees receiving TAA benefits, and retirees who receive pension payments through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. It currently makes health insurance coverage more affordable by providing a 72.5 percent tax credit to eligible workers. This bill would expand the tax credit to 80 percent.
In December 2012, Rockefeller requested a GAO study on the impact of eliminating the HCTC because of the provision allowing the HCTC program to expire at the end of 2013. The report showed that without HCTC benefits, the majority of eligible Americans would have to pay more for health coverage.
In the Senate, Rockefeller has long sought efforts to promote American manufacturing, create jobs in West Virginia and throughout the country, and level the playing field for American workers. Rockefeller has:
• Demanded TAA benefits be extended and expanded to include the HCTC for steelworkers and other American workers hit hard by unfair trade. Most recently, Rockefeller fought for RG Steel workers and retirees who were who were laid off last year after RG Steel filed for bankruptcy.
• Introduced and cosponsored several bills that will help protect existing manufacturing jobs and create new ones. This includes two bills that would, respectively, enable American businesses to compete on a level playing field with foreign companies while keeping jobs in this country, and also increase the level of the HCTC so that more jobless workers can receive affordable health coverage.
• Held a series of “Making it in America” roundtables around West Virginia. Rockefeller spoke with industry and labor leaders, as well as business owners and government officials, on how to strengthen West Virginia’s manufacturing sector. Rockefeller continues to hold discussions with West Virginians about this issue.
• Led the Congressional effort to create the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program. Passed into law in 1988, MEP established a network of federal, state, and industry advisors to improve the productivity of American manufacturers.
• Testified before the International Trade Commission on behalf of West Virginia manufacturers. Rockefeller has written and testified in person before the Commission on numerous occasions to advocate for many industries, including steel and tin, in West Virginia which have faced outsourcing problems because of illegal foreign subsidies.
• Spearheaded the COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 (COMPETES). COMPETES underscores the need to support not only advanced and innovative manufacturing processes, but also the preparation of future generations of highly-skilled American workers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.