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Why the American Health Care Act Is Bad for Older Americans, People with Disabilities, and Their Families

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Update: The House passed the American Health Care Act by a narrow margin. Read Joe Baker’s statement on behalf of the Medicare Rights Center. [x_line style=”border-top-width: 1px;”]Today, the U.S. House of Representatives could take steps toward undoing many years’ worth of progress and put the health care of 24 million Americans at risk. This morning, I sent a letter on behalf of the Medicare Rights Center (Medicare Rights) to leaders in the House expressing our strong opposition to the American Health Care Act (AHCA). This is what I told them:

The AHCA risks access to affordable health care for older Americans, people with disabilities, and their families. Reported and recent amendments to the legislation in no way ensure that near-retirees and people with disabilities—including those with pre-existing conditions—will continue to benefit from the coverage expansions made possible by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Indeed, according to available estimates, at least 24 million Americans would lose health coverage under the AHCA. 

Before the ACA, Medicare Rights’ counselors regularly fielded calls on our national helpline from individuals not yet eligible for Medicare who were desperate to find affordable health insurance. We remain deeply concerned that the AHCA’s effective elimination of the Medicaid expansion combined with the law’s changes to individual market coverage, including an “age tax” on premiums, will cause older adults and people with disabilities to pay significantly more for health insurance or cause them to go without coverage altogether.

The AHCA rewrites Medicaid by way of per-capita caps—cutting more than $830 billion from the program. These shortsighted cuts will undermine access to essential care when our nation needs it most, as our aging population continues to grow. This includes the one in five (11 million) people with Medicare who rely on Medicaid to cover vital long-term home health care and nursing home services, to help afford their Medicare costs, and more. Even with increased inflation rates for the elderly and disabled, Medicaid per-capita caps will likely lead states to scale back benefits, impose waiting lists, implement unaffordable financial obligations, or otherwise restrict access to needed care.

Further, tax provisions in the AHCA directly undermine the Medicare guarantee for the sole purpose of providing tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans. We strongly oppose a proposal in the AHCA to roll back a modest payroll tax increase that serves to strengthen the Medicare program’s fiscal stability, and we are similarly concerned by the repeal of a tax on pharmaceutical companies that will reportedly contribute to Medicare Part B premium hikes over the next decade.

For these reasons, we strongly oppose the AHCA. We continue to urge lawmakers to work towards bipartisan consensus on needed reforms that enhance health care access and affordability for older adults, people with disabilities, and their families.[x_line style=”border-top-width: 1px;”]The House is expected to vote today! Help us tell Congress to abandon the AHCA once and for all. Follow our two steps to keep the pressure on your representatives and insist that they protect our care.[x_custom_headline level=”h3″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”false” style=”margin-top:0px;”]Step One: Call 866-426-2631 to contact your member of Congress.[/x_custom_headline]You will be asked to enter your five-digit zip code before being transferred to your representative. Urge your representative to:Vote “no” on taking health care away from 24 million people. The American Health Care Act increases health care costs—most of all for Americans in their 50s and 60s—and puts coverage out of reach for millions.Vote “no” on capping Medicaid dollars. The American Health Care Act cuts more than $800 billion in funding from Medicaid. These caps will force states to ration care, threatening access to long-term home care that allows older adults and people with disabilities to stay in their communities and to receive nursing home care when it is needed.Vote “no” on cutting Medicare. The American Health Care Act creates a tax windfall for the wealthiest Americans and pharmaceutical corporations at Medicare’s expense. These tax breaks undermine the Medicare trust fund, which helps pay for hospital care that older adults and people with disabilities need, and will hike Medicare Part B premiums.[x_custom_headline level=”h3″ looks_like=”h4″ accent=”false” style=”margin-top:0px;”]Step Two: Write to your member of Congress.[/x_custom_headline]After you call your member of Congress, send them a letter. You can use our letter, or adapt the letter with your own message.[x_button size=”global” block=”false” circle=”false” icon_only=”false” href=”https://actionnetwork.org/letters/tell-your-senators-to-abandon-the-american-health-care-act-once-and-for-all” title=”” target=”” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” info_content=””]Take Action Today![/x_button][x_gap size=”50px”][x_author title=”About the Author” author_id=””]

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