With a close vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA) expected on Capitol Hill today, AARP is pressing House members to vote no on the legislation it says is harmful to older Americans.
“AARP recognizes the magnitude of the upcoming vote on this harmful legislation that creates an age tax, cuts the life of Medicare and gives sweetheart deals to big drug and insurance companies while doing nothing to lower the cost of health care or prescriptions,” AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond said in a statement.
AARP has declared this to be an “accountability vote,” meaning that it will use its communication channels to report how each member of Congress voted on the bill.
Under the proposed legislation, 14 million Americans would lose health coverage next year, and a total of 24 million would lose coverage over the next 10 years, according to estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
The legislation would exact a dramatic financial toll on low- and moderate-income older Americans. The CBO found that for a 64-year-old earning $26,500 a year, health care premiums would rise by almost $13,000 a year.
This enormous increase would derive from two factors. First, by replacing insurance subsidies in current law that are based on income and premium levels with a less-generous tax credit, the bill would hurt people of low and moderate income. Second, by allowing insurance companies to charge people 50 to 64 years old five times as much as what younger people pay for the same coverage — up from the current limit of three times the younger consumers’ rates — the bill would hurt older adults. Together, these provisions would amount to an age tax on older Americans.
AARP’s deep concern about the legislation extends beyond these drastic effects on older adults in the individual private insurance market.
By repealing the 0.9 percent payroll tax on higher-income workers, the bill would push Medicare four years closer to financial insolvency and diminish the program’s capacity to pay for future services.
There are also big changes in Medicaid that would affect older Americans. By fundamentally changing the financing structure of Medicaid through a per-capita cap on spending, the bill would weaken this vital safety net program. Over 17 million low-income seniors, children and adults with disabilities rely on Medicaid for critical health care and long-term services and supports. In addition, the bill would make it harder for many older adults and people with disabilities to live in their homes and communities because it would repeal a financial incentive in the current law for states to provide a home- and community-based option.
While the bill would do harm to older Americans, it would provide generous benefits to special interests. The bill would grant tax breaks worth $200 billion to insurance companies, drugmakers and other industries.