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Trump to sign tax reform bill; how it could affect LGBT health care

In a possible hasty and blatant self-serving decision, the U.S. Congress overhauled the current decades-long tax legislation. When Congress last considered tax reform legislation 31 years ago, they had 30 days of public hearings over six months. Then House members worked together for 10 months to produce a bipartisan package with 26 days of markup in committee. This time around, Republican leadership allowed for a handful of hearings, limited public input, and shortened time to review hundreds of pages of tax code changes (some illegibly handwritten).

However, the rush to get the tax bill to the White House and signed before Chrismas may not happen. Instead, Trump may hold off signing the bill into law to avoid an awkward mandate on spending cuts under pay-as-you-go law. If Trump signs the bill in 2018, he would prevent that ballot for another year and take a leverage point away from Democrats.

HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy issued the following statement about the legislation, carefully crafted to undermine the Affordable Care Act and other vital health care programs:

“We’re extremely disappointed that some members have put their constituents in harm’s way by passing a tax bill that also threatens the health care of millions of Americans. If the Trump-Pence tax scam becomes law, programs crucial to the LGBTQ community like Medicare, Medicaid, global HIV/AIDS programs, and the Ryan White Care Act will surely face future efforts to cut their benefits.”

Repealing the individual mandate could result in 13 million people dumping their insurance, causing premiums to soar making health care an expensive luxury that too many in the LGBT community can’t afford.

Additionally, Stacy said Tuesday: “On the heels of an attempt to erase transgender Americans from CDC documents, we’re now seeing the Trump-Pence Administration refuse to disclose public comments on religious exemptions to LGBTQ health care coverage and eliminate the global threats to LGBTQ people from the conversation on human rights and national security. [These are] part of a disturbing pattern across the Trump-Pence Administration of refusing to even study the unique health care and other needs of LGBTQ people, jeopardizing science-based assessment of health disparities and undermining access to programs and services that are vital to the health and well-being of LGBTQ people. If Donald Trump and Mike Pence believe we are going to remain silent and permit this dangerous trend to go unanswered, they are sorely mistaken.”

HHS is defending its decision to withhold more than 10,000 public comments on a proposal that could affect access to abortion and care for transgender patients.

“There has been a voluminous response to the [request for information], and the center’s team is working through a review of the submissions,” Shannon Royce, who leads the agency’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, said in a statement.

Lawyers also said that HHS is at risk of violating the E-Government Act, the Administrative Procedure Act and other transparency requirements related to rulemaking.

If HHS doesn’t post and address comments on the rule, “there may be grounds” for a challenge, said Alison Tanner of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the missing comments three weeks ago.

Under those laws, agencies must solicit and post public comments as part of the rulemaking process; however, HHS said the comments were in response to a request for information, not an actual rule, and therefore no requirement to be posted.

Some lawyers said that not releasing comments the agency disagrees with could be insignificant given the likely result. “The rulemaking process is Kabuki theater,” an associate law professor at South Texas College of Law told Politico.com. “It’s not going to matter what liberal groups submit — even though it’s supposed to.”

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