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Sen McKinney Backing Healthy Living Tax Break



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Sen McKinney Backing

Healthy Living Tax Break

Newtown’s Senate representative in Hartford, who last year attempted to ban the use of trans fat in all state restaurants, has set his sights on a much more comprehensive initiative this year.

Senate Minority Leader John McKinney, Senator Dan Debicella (R-Shelton), and members of the Senate Republican Caucus floated a proposal designed to promote healthy living while reducing health care costs for Connecticut residents.

Under the Healthy Living Tax Break, individuals and families who meet preventive care guidelines established by the Department of Public Health would be able to deduct out of pocket medical expenses (including premiums, co-pays, and deductibles) from their state income tax.

“Preventive care must be a central part of the long-term effort to increase access to health care and lower costs,” said Senator McKinney. “By detecting and treating serious chronic disease early, we can save lives and help reduce some of the burden on other areas of our health care system. We believe this tax incentive is a good step in that direction.”

The senator cited cancer and heart disease — two leading killers in Connecticut — which he said would be 90 percent less costly to treat if they are caught early through preventative examinations.

“This amounts to a savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars per patient that can be passed along to other consumers,” Sen McKinney said.

According to the senator, qualifying for the Healthy Living Tax Break can be as easy as attending an annual physical exam. During that annual visit, the physician would qualify the patient had all the annual and semiannual preventive care screenings recommended for people of the applicable age and gender.

“When you’ve completed your physical, your doctor will sign a one-page certification form for you to include in your state income tax filing,” Sen McKinney said. The form will allow qualified taxpayers to deduct all health care premiums, co-pays, and deductibles paid for that year.

“By focusing on prevention, the Healthy Living Tax Break will help reduce health care costs for everyone,” said Sen Debicella, who authored the proposal. “For the 94 percent of us who have health insurance, it will help reduce the systemic causes of increased premiums and deductibles; and for the six percent of people who do not have health insurance, cost reduction will make it cheaper to purchase private insurance or enroll in Governor Rell’s Charter Oak Plan.”

Research indicates that by making reasonable improvements in preventing and managing chronic disease, Connecticut can improve public health, save money, and relieve some of the considerable strain on hospitals and caregivers.

According to a recent study by the Milken Institute, nearly two million cases of seven chronic diseases — cancers, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, mental disorders, and pulmonary conditions — were reported in Connecticut in 2003. The medical cost of treating these conditions totaled $3.3 billion — and this is expected to increase to $7.6 billion by 2023 due to the aging of the population.

The report says active prevention can stop up to 25 percent of these chronic illnesses (400,000) cases in 2023. This would avoid $1.9 billion dollars in costs associated with direct treatments.

In addition, chronic illnesses cause massive productivity losses in Connecticut as people are forced out of the workforce. The Milken Institute estimates that Connecticut lost $12.9 billion in economic activity due to chronic illnesses, and this loss will grow to $37 billion by 2023.

But again, 25 percent of this cost could be avoided by active prevention, adding $9–10 billion to the Connecticut economy, Sen McKinney said.

A recent survey conducted by the University of Pittsburgh determined that only 20 percent of all Americans actually get annual physical exams. The Healthy Living Tax Break will provide an incentive to encourage more people to get their physicals and use preventative care.

As the Department of Public Health works to create awareness for the Healthy Living Tax Break, Senate Republicans believe as many as 20 percent of eligible families will take advantage of the program in its first year, at an estimated cost savings of $20 million.

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