WATERLOO, IOWA – Congress is back in session for its final “Lame Duck” session, and virtually every news source is talking about the dreaded “Fiscal Cliff.” Whether reports say that Congressional leaders are optimistic about an agreement or that talks to resolve it has been “off to a rocky start,” the fact remains that Congress will be working hard in the final weeks of the 112th Congress to come up with an agreement.
The “Fiscal cliff” is a term that is used to describe what the government will face at the end of this year, if an agreement is not made. This is when terms of the Budget Control Act of 2011 are scheduled to go into effect. Some of the laws that are set to change include:
- temporary payroll tax cuts;
- the end of certain tax breaks for businesses; and
- the beginning of taxes related to the health reform law.
Additionally, “deep, automatic” cuts from over 1,000 government programs, including Medicare are expected.
Lawmakers are being challenged to come to an agreement, shielding the fragile economy from another recession. According to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, who recently spoke at the New York Economic Club, “The Congress and the administration will need to protect the economy from the full brunt of the severe fiscal tightening at the beginning of next year that is built into current law — the so-called fiscal cliff” (LA Times, 11/20/2012).
The “Fiscal Cliff” and HR 6490
If an agreement is made for a bill to stave off the “fiscal cliff,” it is possible that the industry could use that bill as a vehicle for HR 6490. In other words, the language from HR 6490 could be included into the larger “fiscal cliff” bill.
But if we are to have any hope of this, it is absolutely crucial to get more people contacting their representatives and urging them to co-sponsor HR 6490. We need at least 100 co-sponsors signed on.
Regardless of whether or not they are in a competitive bid area, every provider should take about five minutes to contact his or her legislator. There are many resources out there to help providers easily connect with their representatives.
The VGM DC Link Action Center (www.vgmdclink.com) has an editable letter available that may be used and sent directly from that site. AAHomecare (www.aahomecare.org) also has an action center on its site. All providers should be taking advantage of the tools out there to help them connect with their members of Congress.
Remember: HR 6490 must go through this year, or we will have to start over with a new bill in the 113th Congress. Join your fellow providers by taking advantage of this window of opportunity.
John Gallagher is vice president, Government Relations, for The VGM Group, Waterloo, Iowa.