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In this Halloween Season, Zombie Threats to Health Care Put Us at Risk

Certain threats to health care seem to arise from the dead regularly, and this Halloween season features an assortment of such zombie threats to Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As 2018 winds down, we must remain vigilant about attempts to cut or eliminate these vital programs that help older adults, people with disabilities, and their families and caregivers.

Last year, Congress failed multiple times in wide-ranging attempts to repeal the ACA, which would have put an end to important protections, including protections that:

  1. keep individuals from being charged more for insurance because of their age or health condition;
  2. allow people with pre-existing conditions to buy the same plans with the same coverage as everyone else; and
  3. require plans to cover an array of needed benefits, including prescription drugs and hospital care.

In addition to attempts to eliminate the ACA, Congress tried and failed to end Medicaid as we know it with attempts to cut and cap the program. These changes would have harmed everyone with Medicaid including older adults who rely on Medicaid to stay in their homes or for nursing facility care.

Facing election year pressures, Congress put those ideas on the back burner in 2018, but Congressional leaders are openly saying that ACA repeal may be back on the table in 2019.

This week has also seen Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security cuts brought to the forefront as some in Congress search for ways to pay for last year’s tax plan that has ballooned deficits. We predicted the tax bill would put these programs at risk as the legislation was expected to add $1.5 trillion to the debt over 10 years, creating financing challenges for the federal government. Congressional leaders claimed the tax plan would “pay for itself,” but the results indicate the opposite, with revenues dropping sharply.

While Congressional attention has been elsewhere in recent months, these programs have remained under threat, due to legal challenges and administrative actions. Some states and the Trump Administration are attacking the ACA in court in an attempt to eliminate the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. A decision from this case could happen any day, and if the court finds for the plaintiffs, chaos may reign for people who desperately need health care coverage to treat significant conditions.

At the same time, the Administration is advancing state efforts to restrict Medicaid eligibility, making changes that may make it harder for people with Medicare to make optimal coverage choices, and undermining the ACA.

As Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA continue to face significant opposition at the state and federal levels, Medicare Rights will keep fighting to protect these vital programs, which help maintain economic security and build well-being for millions. As always, our goal is to work together with Congress and the Administration to create lasting solutions to provide health care for all.

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