Senate Health Care bill unfair and unaffordable for Mainers
After working behind closed doors, Senate leadership finally released their health care bill - The Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) – on June 22. It is now clear why the Senate bill was crafted in secret. This legislation could make adequate health insurance coverage unaffordable for millions of older Americans and would be a travesty for Maine. Mainers have a right to know what is included in this proposal.
First of all, the BCRA would have a disproportionate impact on older adults by allowing insurance companies to charge them more due to their age. This means that people between the ages of 50 and 64 who are buying health insurance on their own would be penalized by an age tax: They could be charged 5 times (or more) what someone under 50 pays. The result, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI), is that once again, costs for insurance coverage would dramatically increase. For example, older Mainers who earn $45,000/year would lose premium tax subsidies under the bill and could have to pay as much as $14,000 more annually. This is alarming news for the nation’s oldest state.
Secondly, the BCRA would allow states to waive important consumer protections, including what are known as “essential health benefits.” This would permit insurance companies to either discontinue coverage or significantly increase the cost of coverage they offer. Anyone with a pre-existing condition would be at risk if this were to happen. There are currently 123,000 Mainers living with pre-existing conditions including chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. This provision in the BCRA would be devastating to these individuals as well as their families.
Medicaid is a lifeline for 268,000 Mainers of all ages, including individuals living with disabilities and low and middle-income seniors who depend on it for long-term care at home or in nursing homes. The BCRA makes cuts to Medicaid (MaineCare) in the billions of dollars and would allow states to create a capped financing structure. This would affect older Mainers through a spending limit system called a “per capita cap.” This spending cap would give Maine a fixed dollar amount per enrolled Medicaid beneficiary. In Maine, the projected Medicaid caps would cause a $13 billion-$26 billion shortfall over a 20 year period. Simply put, these deep cuts to Medicaid would place current beneficiaries at great risk of losing the services and supports they need whether at home or in a nursing home. Maine has already had several nursing homes close and family caregivers cannot be expected to shoulder more caregiving responsibilities.
Finally, the Senate bill would cut $58.6 billion from Medicare — making it harder for Medicare to pay for services in the future. The bill repeals a 0.9 percent payroll tax on high-income individuals that was designed to help make sure Medicare remains solvent. This disturbing proposal in the bill would impact over 296,000 Mainers including younger individuals with disabilities.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued their analysis of the bill on June 26th. Their report states that if the BRCA passes, 15 million Americans will lose their health care coverage in just one year. By 2026, 22 million will lose their health insurance. Placing the nation’s most vulnerable residents in such an untenable position becomes even more egregious when one considers that the BRCA calls for tens of billions in tax breaks for drug and insurance companies and wealthy Americans.
AARP Maine is opposed to this deeply flawed legislation. Volunteers and local residents recently participated in meetings with both Senator Collins and Senator King, where together, we expressed our concerns. We continue to urge both Senators to reject this or any other health care plan that would have a negative impact on millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Mainers. We need legislation that is about health and about care. This bill is neither. Call your Senators today and urge them to stand strong for Maine.
AARP Maine State President