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AARP slams Senate GOP health care proposal, calls for Congress to 'start from scratch'

  • AARP called for Senators on both sides of the aisle to vote against the GOP health-care proposal.
  • For a 64 year old earning $56,800, premiums would increase by $13,700.
  • Dramatic state budget shortfalls will occur if BCRA goes into law, AARP said.
Nancy LeaMond, AARP
Drew Angerer | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Nancy LeaMond, AARP

Non-profit AARP said Tuesday that based on the results of the Congressional Budget Office's analysis of the GOP Senate health-care bill, all senators should vote against the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

"Under the BCRA, premiums and out of pocket costs for 50-64 year olds buying their own insurance would skyrocket, Medicaid coverage for millions of seniors and people with disabilities would be at risk and the fiscal sustainability of Medicare would be weakened," Nancy LeaMond, AARP's executive chief advocacy & engagement officer, wrote in a letter to senators.

The group's letter comes amid signs that Republicans are having a difficult time mustering enough support for their bill. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the vote will be delayed until after the July 4 holiday recess.

Despite the setback, McConnell said he is still "optimistic" about passing the legislation, which would repeal and replace key provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Republicans can only afford to lose two votes in order to win passage of the legislation.

In its letter to the Senate, AARP called for Congress to "start from scratch" on a new bill.

Chief among the group's concerns is the expected spike in coverage costs for the 6.1 million Americans who fall within the 50- to 64-year-old age group.

Under the current law, older Americans may be charged three-times more than younger Americans for insurance coverage, a situation that LeaMond described as a "compromise." BCRA would nearly double that, allowing insurance companies in the non-group market to charge older Americans five times more than younger consumers.

The CBO report released Monday estimated that, for a 64-year-old earning $56,800 a year, premiums would increase by $13,700 under the new Senate bill. At this level, the price of insurance would be unaffordable for many individuals.

States also could get waivers that would allow insurers to charge people with pre-existing or chronic conditions more. The group said this would effectively eliminate one of the "most important consumer provisions enacted under the ACA."

AARP estimates that about 40 percent of those who are 50 to 64 years old have some type of pre-existing condition.

AARP also emphasized the effect on state budgets from BCRA cutting about $772 billion from the federal Medicaid program. A 26 percent decrease compared to the current law, AARP said "dramatic budget shortfalls" will occur if BCRA goes into law.

"Most states are not in a position to adequately respond to this shortfall of funds, so these changes would result in cuts to program eligibility, services, or both," LeaMond said.

The proposed fixed federal funding structure would shift health care costs to states, whose taxpayers would "be unable to shoulder the costs of care," LeaMond added.

Further, the cuts in Medicare funding could weaken the system for future generations, she said.

LeaMond also said that the bill failed to address the problem of high prescription drug costs.

"Rather than address costs, BCRA simply repeals the fee on manufacturers and importers of branded prescription drugs. This repeal removes $25.7 billion from the Medicare Part B trust fund between 2017 and 2026, and leads directly to higher Medicare Part B premiums," LeaMond said.

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