Tim Summers, AARP Montana

TIM SUMMERS

The American Health Care Act (AHCA) would give billions to big drug and insurance companies while dramatically increasing costs for Montanans over age 50 and those with pre-existing conditions.

Under the AHCA, passed by the U.S. House, insurance companies can charge older adults five times what other consumers pay for the same health insurance policy. The bill also lets Montana lawmakers get a waiver that would give insurance companies the power to charge older adults even more.

The legislation would further penalize Montanans in their 50s and 60s 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 potentially force Montanans age 50 to 64 to dig a lot deeper into their pockets to pay for health insurance – for many, these premium increases would be unaffordable. Here is the potential impact in Montana:

  • A 55-year-old Montanan earning $25,000 annually could see his or her premium increase by as much as $6,730.
  • A 64-year-old Montanan earning $25,000 annually could see his or her premium increase by as much as $11,448.

According to AARP research, increasing the age tax would mean taxpayers of all ages would have to spend an extra $6.7 billion in assistance for older Americans who need extra help.

There’s more bad news for all Americans under the AHCA. States will be permitted to request waivers that would once again give power to insurers to charge higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions.

In states that received waivers, insurers could charge much higher premiums for people with pre-existing conditions such as cancer, diabetes, or heart problems. With some 25 million Americans ages 50 to 64 with pre-existing health conditions, many people will be priced out of affordable health insurance. In Montana, 35 percent of the population age 50 to 64 – that’s more than 76,000 Montanans — have a pre-existing condition.

Current law protects people with pre-existing conditions making it illegal for insurance companies to 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.

You may have heard supporters of the AHCA say it protects people with pre-existing conditions by allowing states to create “high-risk pools.” High-risk pools have a 25-year history of failing. According to an analysis by AARP’s Public Policy Institute, “high-risk pools” carry sky-high premiums, with tabs reaching $25,700 a year in 2019. Insurance companies who participate offer plans that are often inadequate; people with health conditions had to wait up to 12 months for coverage for a pre-existing condition and had limited access to specialists and prescription drugs.

The AHCA also cuts 25-percent out of the Medicaid program which would result in a massive cost shift to states. 

Americans deserve health care legislation that includes strong consumer protections, lower costs, improves quality, and provides affordable coverage to all Americans.

Tim Summers is state director for AARP Montana.

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