Friday, June 9, 2017

Letters to the editor

Dear Editor,

You may have been watching current debates about the American Health Care Act (AHCA) recently passed by the House of Representatives and what it will mean for Americans of all ages. This bill would have disastrous consequences for older Mainers, whether you are receiving coverage in the individual market, or rely on Medicare and Medicaid. 

According to the latest report from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, if this deeply flawed legislation passes, 23 million Americans will lose health care coverage by 2026. 

Under the AHCA, insurance companies can discriminate against older adults by charging them five times what other consumers pay for the same health insurance policy. The bill also lets Maine lawmakers get a waiver that would give insurance companies the power to charge older adults even more than this.

The legislation would further penalize people between the ages of 50 and 64 through changes in the way health care tax credits are calculated. Under current law, the tax credits are determined by what your health insurance costs, as well as a person’s ability to afford that coverage. Under the House bill, those factors are no longer considered, which would cut the tax credits by thousands of dollars for older adults. 

If this bill becomes law, it could force 50-64-year old Mainers to dig a lot deeper into their pockets to pay for health insurance. For many, these premium increases would be unaffordable. In Maine for example: a 55-year old earning $25,000 annually could see a premium increase of as much as $7,602. A 64-year old Mainer earning the same amount could see a premium cost increase of as much as $12,701. We continue to hear from people across Maine who are already overwhelmed by their premiums and in many cases, have deductibles in the thousands. They tell us if the bill becomes law they will no longer have insurance.

Under the AHCA there is bad news for Americans who have a preexisting condition. Through a last minute amendment added to secure passage of the House bill, states who apply will be given flexibility by the federal government that would once again give power to insurance companies to charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions.  

Given some 25 million Americans ages 50 to 64 have pre-existing health conditions such as: heart disease, asthma or cancer, many people will be priced out of affordable health insurance. In Maine, 40 percent of the population aged 50 to 64 live with a pre-existing condition. In other words, 123,155 older Mainers would be impacted. Plus, you can have a preexisting condition at any age. Some AHCA supporters cite the high risk pool that had operated in Maine prior to adoption of the AHCA, as a model for how to protect people with pre-existing conditions, but the Maine model worked because it was adequately funded. It is important to note, that the version proposed under the AHCA would be funded at only about 10% of what would be needed for success, according to most analysts. 

Current law protects people with pre-existing conditions making it illegal for insurance companies to deny them or charge them more for coverage. That protection would be dramatically eroded under the AHCA and could cost people with pre-existing conditions more than $25,000 a year in health insurance premiums.

If you think you don’t need to worry because you are 65 or older, think again. The AHCA also cuts the Medicaid program which would result in cuts to long-term care for Maine seniors who want to age in their homes and those who need nursing home care. It also makes changes that will impact how long Medicare is solvent.   

These are just a few of the major reasons why the AHCA is opposed by doctors, hospitals, and consumer groups, including AARP. 

The AHCA is neither about health nor about care. It now is up to the Senate to respond. We urge Mainers of all ages to make their voices heard by calling Senator Collins on this critical issue. We deserve health care legislation that increases consumer protections, lowers costs, improves quality, and provides affordable coverage to all Mainers.

Rich Livingston
AARP Maine Volunteer State President

To the Editor

I’m sure that many of your readers are elated to read the accomplishments of our local youths. How they excel in academics, sports and scouting, etc. Not very often do we hear of an adult volunteer that excelled in a given arena. This is a story of such a case; about a man that, some years ago, had become a scoutmaster. We all realize that a scoutmaster can become many things to a young man that joins his troop.

This youngster wished of all things to become a scout and wear the scout uniform. He had great difficulty in talking and learning. Scouting does require that you relate some laws to be able to advance to become a scout. This was not possible for this lad.

This particular scoutmaster wanted this boy to be able to wear the uniform and become a scout. During one troop meeting he told the young man, that if he could learn to tie a square knot he would become a first-class scout and receive the pin. At each meeting, the scoutmaster would work with the boy. He even invited him to his home and would coach him. Until, at last, the lad could tie the knot.

Oh, what elation when he received the pin. That boy, that had now become a man, wore that pin in the lapel of his business suit for 34 years. One day he found the scoutmaster and handed him the pin - that first pin stating: “If it were not for you and the many devoted hours you spent with me, to stick with it, I would not have succeeded in the business world.”

Do a good turn daily.

Fred Collins

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