By guest writer Bob Jackson
After a couple of weeks back in their districts for spring recess, members of the US congress return to Capitol Hill tomorrow, Monday, and you will soon start hearing again about shenanigans involving a very dangerous healthcare bill that many Americans had left for dead.
Just before leaving Washington, congressional leaders held closed-door meetings in an attempt to resurrect the legislation, called the American Health Care act. The problem is that, if they get their way, it would make
a bad bill even worse.
The current version would allow insurance companies to charge older people five times what they charge others for the same coverage. Compounding that problem, it would reduce the tax credit that lower- and middle-income Americans use to be able to afford coverage.
Charging older adults five times more than others and changing the tax credit produces an “age tax” that could total up to $13,000 a year more for older people, according to the congressional budget office.
In an effort to round up more support, AHCA proponents are now putting forward another awful idea – allowing insurance companies to deny coverage or dramatically increase costs for people with pre-existing health conditions like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Under current law, insurers are prevented from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions. This protection is critically important to millions of Americans and their families. Without it, they face the fear of great financial distress or ruin on top of dealing with a serious health problem.
People between ages 50 and 64 are especially at risk from
a plan that would end or erode protection for those with a pre-existing health condition. According to AARP’s public policy institute, 40 per cent of Americans in that age group – a total of 25 million people – have a pre-existing health condition. In Texas, approximately two million people between ages 50 and 64 have a pre-existing health condition.
To make matters worse, the bill would also weaken Medicare’s finances, opening the door for a voucher system. The 57 million Americans and the workers paying into the program could face increased costs and risks they can’t afford.
The bill also does nothing to lower prescription-drug prices while giving drug and insurance companies $200 billion in tax breaks.
From lifesaving cancer treatments to EpiPen allergy medicine, above, drug companies’ skyrocketing prices are pushing critical medications out of reach for those who need them.
Last year alone, prescription-drug costs increased by thousands of dollars. There
is no reason Americans should be paying the highest prices in the world.
Instead of the old saying, “First, do no harm”, the AHCA bill takes a radically different approach – keep doing harm and hope people aren’t paying attention.
Let’s make sure our representatives understand that
we will not accept this legislation because it punishes older Americans and rewards special interests. We won’t just stand by as they cut backroom deals that cut down on our health care.
We won’t forget who supports this bill in congress – and who stands against it.
Bob Jackson is director of AARP Texas, which advocates for people age 50-plus and has 2.3 million members throughout the state.
Epipen photo: MGN