Over the past two days, the Senate has rejected two bills that would have repealed or replaced the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But millions of older Americans are still in danger of losing their health care coverage and seeing their costs soar as the Senate continues to debate how to dismantle the ACA.
Unfortunately for older Americans who rely on the protections in the ACA, the debate over the future of the nation’s health care system is not over.
On Wednesday afternoon, senators voted down legislation to partially repeal the ACA without any replacement plan. In the final tally, seven Republicans joined all the Democrats in voting no. Late Tuesday, lawmakers voted down a measure to repeal the ACA and replace it with a bill that would leave at least 22 million uninsured, impose an ”age tax” on older Americans by dramatically increasing costs, put those with preexisting conditions at risk, and cut the Medicaid program that seniors and the disabled rely upon to be able to remain in their own homes. That bill went down to defeat by a vote of 43-57 — with every Democrat and nine Republicans voting no.
Senate leaders now hope they can convince a majority of senators to vote for a scaled-back bill that is being called a “skinny” repeal bill. This measure would reportedly rescind the ACA’s requirement that individuals have health insurance and that employers with 50 or more workers provide coverage for their employees. The bill also would eliminate a tax on medical devices that manufacturers have fought against since before the ACA was passed in 2010.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not published a score for this specific measure. But actuaries and the CBO in the past have said that if the individual mandate were eliminated, 15 million fewer people would have insurance, and premiums for older adults would escalate because many healthy people would drop their coverage and insurers would be left covering older and sicker Americans.
The calculus behind bringing the stripped-down bill to the Senate floor is that it would keep the health care debate alive. If the skinny bill passes, then the House of Representatives and the Senate would go back to the measure the House passed in May and try to agree on a final version of that bill. The House bill, the American Health Care Act of 2017, would lead to 24 million fewer Americans having coverage, impose an age tax, and cut Medicare and Medicaid.
AARP has vigorously opposed all of the measures that would increase costs and strip away needed health care coverage from older Americans — and will continue to fight against any bill that would increase costs and lower benefits.
It was unclear late Wednesday when exactly the Senate will conclude the health care debate, although leaders hoped to wrap up by Friday.