This week, an Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal bill was finally unveiled. We have and will continue to release analysis of the bill’s harm to women, but in this week’s worst TBT ever blog, we will zero in on a provision that hasn’t gotten much attention. This provision of the ACA repeal bill throws us way back—back to a time when married women weren’t treated as separate persons apart from their husbands.
Under the repeal bill, married taxpayers are only eligible for tax credits to help them pay for health insurance coverage—tax credits that are already substantially lower than under the ACA—if they file a joint tax return. Not only does this provision throw us back to a time when married women were not treated as separate legal persons under the law, it would harm married women in unsafe or difficult situations. By requiring married couples to file joint returns in order to receive the tax credits, the repeal bill ignores a host of situations—including physical or mental abuse, pending divorce, or when one spouse is incarcerated—in which filing a joint return may not be possible or safe.
This “joint filing requirement” entails communication between a survivor and her abusive spouse that may reveal a survivor’s new physical address, phone number, employer and bank account, with potentially dangerous results. An abandoned spouse may be unable to locate her husband for purposes of both divorce proceedings and tax filing. Under the repeal bill, a woman in these scenarios would not be eligible to receive tax credits to purchase health insurance.
The Obama Administration undertook extensive rulemaking on this issue and the ACA currently allows survivors of domestic abuse and abandoned spouses to receive tax credits when filing a separate tax return. By not including any exemptions for such situations, the repeal bill flies in the face of this settled interpretation of the law and jeopardizes the safety, health, and economic security of many women.
The joint filing requirement is one of the many ways this repeal bill throws us back to a time when health insurance unfairly punished women, simply for being women. Moreover, this requirement places some women in difficult situations and some in imminent danger.
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