On Thursday, May 4, 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed the Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA), or HR 1628. The bill passed 217-213 with zero Democratic votes. Under this bill, now in the hands of the Senate, senior citizens could be the biggest losers should it pass.
HR 1628, colloquially known as the AHCA, is the first successful bill to create a path for repealing parts of the Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred as Obamacare. Under Obamacare, insurance companies could charge seniors three times the premium rate than younger Americans. Under AHCA, that ratio is increased five to one.
“Under the legislation, insurers would be allowed to generally charge five times more for older enrollees than younger ones rather than three times more as under current law, substantially reducing premiums for young adults and substantially raising premiums for older people,” according the the previous Congressional Budget Office report. It estimates an increase in uninsured older Americans, especially lower-income seniors.
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) says that the MacArthur Amendment protects anyone, including seniors, from being denied coverage for pre-existing conditions.
“The amendment is very clear: Under no circumstance can people be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.”
Director of State Health Reform at the Kaiser Family Foundation, Jennifer Tolbert, said that tax credits going down for older Americans with pre-existing conditions, this age group having a higher likelihood of being sicker, and the ratio increasing to 5:1 will likely increase the number of uninsured seniors.
The Kaiser Family Foundation released an interactive map demonstrating the changes and how it affects age groups with different income levels.
The AARP, one of the largest and most well known interest groups representing senior citizens, is staunchly opposed to AHCA.
“AARP is deeply disappointed in today’s vote by the House to pass this deeply flawed health bill. The bill will put an Age Tax on us as we age, harming millions of American families with health insurance, forcing many to lose coverage or pay thousands of dollars more for health care. In addition, the bill now puts at risk the 25 million older adults with pre-existing conditions, such as cancer and diabetes, who would likely find health care unaffordable or unavailable to them.”
The AARP is not the only major group opposing this bill. Dozens of groups are, including the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, conservative group Americans for Prosperity, among a long list of others.
The AHCA is heading to the Senate, where it’s receiving a skeptical view from senators. South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham is one.
The Washington Examiner reports the bill will be a Senate bill, not what’s passed in the House. But some senators are seeing the bill as a starting point to affect change.
“Now it’s up to us to pass a bill 51 senators can agree to,” Senate Majority WHIP John Cornyn (R-TX) said.