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Effort Continues to Revive Health Care Bill

Protection for preexisting conditions now in jeopardy

En español | The White House and some members of the House of Representatives are trying to revive the health care bill that was pulled from a vote on the House floor late last month in the face of widespread opposition.

The legislation, called the American Health Care Act (AHCA), was roundly condemned after projections from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and others said it would lead to a loss of coverage for 24 million Americans over the next decade, drive up premiums dramatically for people ages 50 to 64, weaken Medicare, and give tax breaks to the tune of $200 billion to insurance companies, drugmakers and other industries.

Recent efforts to win over opponents of the bill in the House have included a proposal to allow insurance companies to deny coverage or charge thousands more for people with preexisting health conditions.  Barring that discrimination is a centerpiece of the current law, the Affordable Care Act.

Green-lighting discrimination against those with preexisting conditions would have enormous consequences.

AARP’s Public Policy Institute reports that 25 million people ages 50 to 64 have a preexisting condition, like cancer, heart disease or high blood pressure, for which they could be turned down for coverage on the individual market if discrimination against them were once again permitted. This could mean, for example, denying lifesaving treatments like chemotherapy and dialysis.

The 25 million total represents 40 percent of Americans who are 50 to 64. In eight states — Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia — the percentage of 50- to 64-year-olds with preexisting conditions ranges from 45 to 52 percent.

Even before this threat to people with preexisting conditions, the bill would have dealt a punishing financial blow to older Americans. AARP’s Public Policy Institute found that the AHCA would raise premiums on Americans 50-64 by thousands of dollars a year.

The AHCA would allow insurance companies to charge older Americans five times the amount they charge others for the same coverage. At the same time, it would reduce the tax credit that helps low- and middle-income Americans afford health insurance. Together, these provisions add up to an unfair “age tax” that could cost older Americans up to $13,000 per year, according to AARP.

Targeting people with preexisting conditions makes a bad bill much worse, in AARP’s view.

Watch part two of the update on the new Health Care Bill below.