Other Views: Overcharging seniors won’t fix health care
If you were to ask a typical Janesville or Wisconsin resident how to fix health care in America, you can be sure he or she would not suggest that Washington allow insurance companies to price people out of affordable coverage.
Yet Congress is now considering the American Health Care Act—a bill that would do just that. The bill would impose an “age tax” on older Americans. That means people in their 50s and 60s who are buying health insurance on their own might have to pay up to $8,400 per year more than they do now.
Right now, insurance companies are allowed to charge people over three times what other people have to pay. If this legislation passes, insurance companies could charge older Americans five times or more what other people have to pay.
Such a policy change fails to take into consideration that a typical older American seeking private health insurance has a median annual income of under $25,000. Having to pay thousands more for health insurance could force many to make hard choices between food, medicine, housing and other basic necessities.
The legislation also reduces tax credits that help older Americans with low and moderate incomes pay for their health care premiums. The legislation could price more than 3 million Americans, 50 to 64 years old, out of health insurance.
Additionally, the legislation would allow insurance companies to overcharge older Americans while giving $200 billion in tax breaks to big drug and insurance companies. That’s the wrong way to fix our healthcare system.
The legislation includes other provisions that would harm older Wisconsinites. The bill would weaken Medicare by causing Medicare’s trust fund to dry up four years earlier than forecast.
And it would end the guarantee of coverage for people who receive care in nursing homes and those whose families depend on Medicaid to help seniors and people with disabilities live independently in their homes.
Health care costs are out of control. But this bill would mean higher prices, less coverage, and billions in tax breaks for big drug and insurance companies. Wisconsinites need a health care system that lowers costs, protects consumers and offers everyone access to quality care.
AARP is ready to work with members of both political parties on responsible ways to move forward. If you agree, please tell your elected representatives to vote a resounding “no” on the American Health Care Act.
Sam Wilson is state director of AARP Wisconsin.