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Paul Ryan: AHCA has to do more for older Americans

House Speaker Paul Ryan
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
House Speaker Paul Ryan

House Speaker Paul Ryan appeared to bow to pressure from seniors groups on Sunday, admitting for the first time that his health care bill doesn't do enough for those in their 60s and would have to be revised to give them more help.

There's been no shortage of organizations throwing their weight against Ryan's American Health Care Act since it was released on March 6 — including Planned Parenthood advocates, Democrats in Congress, and House conservatives who think it doesn't go far enough.

But seniors groups, long considered among the most powerful interest groups on Capitol Hill, have also led the charge in denouncing the AHCA. For instance, the AARP has denounced Ryancare for eating into the Medicare trust fund, sunsetting the Medicaid expansion, and jacking up premium rates for older Americans.

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It looks like their message is getting through. Last Wednesday, Ryan announced that his beleaguered bill would need to undergo some changes and "incorporate feedback" from his members ahead of its vote on the House floor this Thursday. But it wasn't clear until Sunday that the change would take the form of more financial assistance for seniors — rather than, say, moving the bill in an even more conservative direction, as some House Republicans have demanded.

"We do believe we need to add some additional assistance to people in those older cohorts," Ryan told Fox News's Chris Wallace on Sunday morning.

Ryan's comment came after Wallace put up the following slide on the screen showing the explosion in the premiums for a 64-year-old making $26,500 (see image here).

While acknowledging that the bill had to change, Ryan continued to maintain that the Congressional Budget Office score made it look worse than it really was. As he has before, Ryan lamented that the CBO didn't incorporate the "three prongs" of Republicans' health care overhaul — a misleading claim, as Vox's Sarah Kliff has explained.

A Ryan spokesperson said the exact form this kind of "assistance" would take hasn't been determined, but Ryan's remarks suggested they would involve increasing tax credits for older Americans.

Whether that will be enough to get the bill across the finish line is another question altogether. When I interviewed House Democrats on the Hill the day after the AHCA was announced, they expressed confidence that they could kill Ryan's bill if they could convince senior groups to turn against it.

"I can tell you, having been up here for a while, that the groups that mobilize the loudest and the hardest are the senior groups," one House Democratic aide says. "They're no joke."