After seven years of battling Barack Obama’s signature healthcare legislation, the Republican Party has finally fulfilled their promise to offer a replacement plan, the American Healthcare Act (ACHA). While seemingly trying to strike middle ground, the architects of the bill have created friction on both sides of the aisle: Democrats are concerned that the legislation will rip health coverage away from millions of Americans; conservative Republicans complain that AHCA is just another overzealous entitlement program; and President Trump struck an uncharacteristically ambivalent tone when he tweeted the bill was ready for “review and negotiation.”
The AHCA poses significant changes to the American healthcare system. The bill would phase out Medicaid expansion by 2020, shift Medicaid’s funding towards states and away from the federal government, reform the individual mandate, increase reliance on age-based tax credits, and allow for interstate competition, among other things. While the bill is currently being reviewed by the Congressional Budget Office, it is safe to say that the AHCA would severely threaten the wellbeing and livelihood of aging Americans.
A Republican amendment to Obamacare that looms ominously over the financial security of aging Americans is the removal of an provision that restricts insurers from charging older patients three times more than younger people. This threatening attempt to remove such stipulations would allow insurers to charge older customers up to five times the price paid by younger customers.
While Congressional supporters of the bill argue that older customers ought to pay more since they receive more care than younger customers, it is evident that the architects of the bill — despite the bill’s final language — saw the immorality of their actions. In an attempt to reconcile their sins, the Republican bill affords older Americans the largest tax-credits. Yet, despite their sophomoric attempt to quiet their consciences, this new bill would, nevertheless, put the financial burden of the American healthcare system on the backs of older citizens who need financial and medical alleviation the most.
The removal of this Obamacare stipulation would effectively bankrupt the savings accounts of customers over the age of 50. The AARP Public Policy Institute calculated that adults ages 50-60 would experience a 13 percent spike in their premiums, and adults ages 60-64 would see their premiums rise by 22 percent. Christine Eibner, an economist from RAND Corporation, concluded that this amendment would cause a 64-year-old customer’s premium to increase by about $4,000. With the safety net of the Social Security fund hanging loosely in the air and the cost of prescription drugs continuously rising, older generations are already uncertain about their future financial stability. Readjusting the financial burden of healthcare towards older Americans would only further aggravate those uncertainties.
Since the release of the American Healthcare Act, AARP and other organizations that protect the livelihoods of aging Americans have come out in opposition to the bill. AARP began a campaign addressing the risks attached to what they have termed the “age-tax” and have pledged to work with Congress to craft a healthcare bill that protects older citizens rather than endangers them.
It should be the government’s duty to ensure the wellbeing of its most vulnerable citizens. The GOP’s plan to erase the Obamacare provision that protects aging Americans financially and medically should come as a rallying cry for legislators and citizens alike. With insurers allowed to charge older customers up to five times the price of younger customers, our aging generations will be forced to make a morally egregious trade-off: they must decide to either protect their savings or protect their health. This is a trade-off that no aging American should ever have to make.