En español | A bill slated for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives this week threatens your health — and your wallet — in many ways. The American Health Care Act (AHCA) was pulled from consideration in March because it lacked the votes. House leaders say they are mustering support for a revised version of the AHCA despite opposition from doctors, hospitals and consumer groups, including AARP. They hope to have a vote on the bill this week. Among the key provisions, the legislation would:
- Impose an age tax. Insurers could charge older adults five times what younger consumers pay for health insurance — up from three times what younger people pay, under the current law. At the same time, the bill would reduce tax credits that help older adults afford their coverage. The age tax could increase annual premiums by $13,000, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Making matters worse, states could receive a federal waiver that would allow insurers to charge even more than five times what younger people pay.
- Allow insurers to charge higher premiums to consumers with preexisting conditions, potentially to levels that people cannot afford. Some 25 million people ages 50 to 64 have a preexisting condition, such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease. They are protected under current law from paying more for insurance than those without such conditions.
- Permit states to rely upon high-risk pools with sky-high premiums to cover people with preexisting conditions. That tab could reach $25,700 a year in 2019, according to AARP’s Public Policy Institute. What’s more, high-risk pools are not a viable solution. When they were used before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, they put such a financial burden on states that benefits were limited, and enrollment in them was capped.
- Jeopardize essential health benefits. States could receive waivers allowing insurers to eliminate coverage for critical benefits. Among the benefits states could opt out of: emergency services, hospitalization, prescription drug coverage, mental health services, chronic disease management and preventive care.
- Undermine Medicare’s financial health. By reducing Medicare’s revenue, the bill would hasten the program’s insolvency by as much as four years and weakens its ability to pay for future services.
- Do nothing to address the high cost of prescription drugs. Consumers with chronic illnesses have seen the price of their medications more than double since 2006, and this legislation would do nothing to help lower costs. At the same time, it would hand a $200 billion windfall in tax breaks to special interests like drugmakers and insurance companies.
- Cut Medicaid funding by $880 billion over 10 years. More than 17 million low-income seniors, children and adults with disabilities rely on Medicaid. Millions of low-income seniors and people of all ages with disabilities risk losing access to critical long-term services and supports.
- Leave millions of Americans without health insurance. Under this legislation, as many as 24 million people would lose their health care coverage within a decade, according to the CBO.
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