AMIA Calls on Lawmakers to Support Students in Tax Reform

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Nation’s health and biomedical informatics professionals urge Congressional leaders to continue their support of informatics graduate education in tax reform

In a letter sent yesterday to the Senate Finance and House Ways & Means committees, the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) urged leadership to abandon potential tax reform provisions that would count graduate student tuition waivers as taxable income. Pointing out that many graduate fellowships in medical informatics offer stipends of less than $30,000 per year, AMIA was concerned that making the stipend even more modest would discourage participation in graduate informatics education.

The House of Representatives passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R.1) on November 16. Section 1204 of the legislation repeals the statute allowing qualified tuition reductions provided by educational institutions to be excluded from taxable income. The Senate version of the bill, which passed on December 8, does not include this repeal. The two versions of the legislation are currently being reconciled in a conference committee, and observers believe a deal combining the two versions is imminent.

A change in the current statute, AMIA argued, would “drive potential students from pursuing graduate research, initiating a deleterious effect across both academia and industry, which increasingly relies on high-quality graduate training.” It further emphasized that in “an era of increased computerization of medical care, including the promise of precision medicine guided by machine learning and artificial intelligence, the need for skilled informaticians capable of understanding both medical care and information systems will only continue to increase.”

“The health care ecosystem is increasingly digital and data-driven,” said Thomas Payne, MD, FACP, FACMI, AMIA Board Chair and Medical Director of IT Services at the University of Washington’s UW Medicine. “We must not do anything that would impede the education and training of a vital component of this ecosystem’s future workforce.”

Pointing out that Congress provided support for graduate STEM education just last year in the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act and the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2017, AMIA enjoined lawmakers to act within the spirit of those laws and continue to encourage such support.

“Students are an investment in the future,” said Douglas B. Fridsma, MD, PhD, FACP, FACMI, AMIA President and CEO. “Health informatics is the quintessential 21st century profession, and we all benefit from the science, discoveries and knowledge that informatics students bring to our challenging health care problems.”

Click here for the full letter.