The Internal Revenue Service and the Treasury Department have released final regulations on the Premium Tax Credit for health insurance, including rules that allow victims of domestic violence to claim the credit.
The final regulations were issued last Thursday, along with draft forms and new revenue procedures and guidance related to the Affordable Care Act (see IRS Releases Draft Forms for ObamaCare).
Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., an original author of the Violence Against Women Act, and Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, said the final regulations would allow domestic violence survivors to access ACA benefits.
“To deny survivors of domestic violence access to affordable health care would contradict the spirit of the ACA—a law that ended the insidious practice of allowing insurance companies to label domestic violence as a pre-existing condition and subsequently deny coverage to battered spouses,” Slaughter said in a statement. “I’m glad Treasury has acted swiftly to implement this rule so these survivors are able to access the health care they need and end the cycle of abuse without these unnecessary barriers.”
In March, Slaughter and Doggett, along with 77 of their colleagues, called on the Treasury Department to allow survivors of domestic violence equal access to health care under the Affordable Care Act . Treasury regulations released in May 2012 required married couples to file joint income tax returns to obtain premium tax credits. Under the Affordable Care Act, low- and middle-income Americans, defined as individuals earning less than $44,200 (four times the poverty rate) and families of four earning less than $90,100, are eligible for premium assistance tax credits when purchasing insurance on the individual market. This presents a problem for domestic violence survivors.
The representatives wrote, “To protect themselves from the ongoing threat of violent abuse, it is common for victims of domestic violence to file taxes separately from their spouse.”
A week later, the Treasury and the IRS released guidance providing that “a married individual who is living apart from his or her spouse, and who is unable to file a joint return as a result of domestic abuse, will be permitted to claim a premium tax credit for 2014 while filing a tax return with a filing status of married filing separately.”
In order to accommodate this change, the Department of Health and Human Services extended the enrollment deadline for survivors of domestic violence until May 31. The final regulations allow for survivors of domestic violence and spousal abandonment to claim the tax credits in future open enrollment periods.
For partners who may be financially dependent on an abusive partner, the regulation will also remove a burden that lawmakers argued could subject domestic abuse victims to further danger.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistic, the likelihood of domestic abuse goes up as incomes go down. Studies have shown economic dependence one of the main reasons why women stay with or return to an abusive partner. Women who are more economically dependent on an abusive partner are also less likely to pursue restraining orders.
"Prompt Treasury action assures the abused that they need not depend upon the abuser for health insurance," said Doggett. "Victims of domestic abuse now have protection for up to three consecutive years to assure access to continuous, discrimination-free health coverage."