Congressional Roundup: Same-sex marriage tax fix, telehealth bill, vaccine discussion

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It’s June 20, 2021. Here’s a roundup of more recent news from New Hampshire’s Congressional Delegation.

Congressional dome. Credit/Wikimedia Commons

Shaheen, Warren Reintroduce Legislation to Provide Equal Tax Treatment for Married Same-Sex Couples

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) reintroduced legislation with U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and a group of Senators to provide equal tax treatment for married same-sex couples. The Refund Equality Act would ensure that legally-married same-sex couples — who until the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2013 U.S. v. Windsor decision were barred from filing federal taxes jointly — are permitted to file amended tax returns back to the date of their marriage.

Before the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor, a same-sex couple, legally married under state law, could not file federal income taxes as a married couple. After Windsor, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published guidance that clarified the IRS’s recognition of same-sex marriages and stated that married same-sex couples could amend previously-filed tax returns to claim refunds or credits due as a result of corrected marital status.

Currently, married couples who previously filed taxes separately are permitted to file amended joint returns dating only back to three years, but the IRS lacks the authority to override this limitation. As a result, same-sex couples who were married in jurisdictions recognizing same-sex marriage prior to Windsor are unable to claim refunds for all years they were legally married. The Refund Equality Act would permit these couples to amend their tax returns for these years, allowing them to file jointly and to secure an estimated total of $57 million in refunds to which they are entitled.

The text of the bill can be viewed here. A fact sheet on the bill can be viewed here.

Shaheen introduces new Telehealth bill

U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) introduced the bipartisan Protecting Rural Telehealth Access Act to make a variety of Medicare’s current telehealth flexibilities permanent, including flexibilities to provide audio-only forms of telehealth services. This would ensure that Medicare patients are able to continue to have access to the services and consultations that they need and patients in rural areas without access to broadband will still be able to utilize audio-only and phone-based visits with their doctors.

“The expansion of telehealth services during the pandemic, especially audio-only telehealth, has allowed Granite Staters to access the care they need without traveling long distances and risking their health, while also helping health care providers easily connect with patients and earn additional income needed to keep their doors open – a win-win,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’m pleased to introduce this common-sense legislation with Senator Manchin to permanently expand the telehealth services and ensure that Medicare beneficiaries in areas of New Hampshire that lack broadband can continue to access audio-only forms of telehealth services. It should not have taken a pandemic for Medicare to finally unlock the potential of telehealth services — and now we need to make sure that these vital telehealth services continue to be available to patients long after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.”

Background information on the Protecting Rural Telehealth Access Act can be found here.  Bill text can be found here.

 Kuster participates in vaccine legislation hearing

Recently, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH-02) , participated in a House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee hearing entitled, “Booster Shot: Enhancing Public Health through Vaccine Legislation.” During the hearing, Kuster questioned public health experts about steps Congress can take to help bolster the nation’s vaccination efforts and prevent the spread of diseases.

Kuster urged all Americans to get COVID-19 vaccinations if they have not already done so after consulting with their doctors.

““As we continue working to end this pandemic, it’s critical that we not lose sight of the lessons we have learned,” said Kuster. “Our system for adult immunizations needs serious improvement. While COVID-19 vaccines are free of cost regardless of your insurance status, for other routinely recommended vaccines, Medicare beneficiaries may be required to pay out-of-pocket costs.”