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Showdown in the Senate

Senators to vote soon on flawed health care bill

Senate Health Care Bill - what it means to you!

Getty Images: Illustration by AARP

Medicare services could be threatened under the new legislation.

The Senate is expected to vote next week on the latest version of a health care bill that would force Americans age 50 and older to pay more for insurance and could require people with such preexisting conditions as heart disease, diabetes and cancer to pay more for life-saving health coverage. 

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is slated to release its analysis of the revised draft of the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 (BCRA) as early as Monday. A vote to bring the measure to the Senate floor is expected soon after.

The CBO analysis of the original Senate bill concluded that it would lead to 22 million fewer Americans with insurance coverage over the next decade and that 14 million people would be thrown off the Medicaid rolls. The new measure leaves in place deep cuts to the Medicaid program, which provides health care for 74 million poor and low-income adults (including seniors), children and people with disabilities, and funds long-term care services and supports.

Next week would be the first time for senators to cast a vote on a bill that AARP and consumer and health care organizations have labeled fundamentally flawed.

“This bill may have changed but the results are the same: higher costs and less coverage for older Americans,” said AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond. “AARP reiterates our opposition to the Age Tax, which would allow insurance companies to charge older Americans five times more than everyone else for the same coverage while reducing tax credits that help make insurance affordable, and we strongly oppose increasing costs for people with preexisting conditions.”

The revised bill, unveiled Thursday, includes a provision that would have disastrous implications for older Americans. Authored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the measure would allow insurers to offer cheap, bare-bones health insurance policies that many experts refer to as junk insurance. These policies typically limit coverage of medical conditions and don’t cover preventive care. 

In addition, the revised BCRA would allow more people to buy catastrophic insurance policies and to get subsidies to help pay for those plans.

Both the bare-bones and catastrophic policies would be attractive to young, healthy people. So those with preexisting conditions that require more comprehensive benefits would be stuck in higher-priced plans.

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