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AARP Reps Head to D.C. to Oppose Health-Care Bill

A report from the Congressional Budget Office says 23 million fewer Americans could have health coverage by 2026 under the American Health Care Act. (sasint/Pixabay)
A report from the Congressional Budget Office says 23 million fewer Americans could have health coverage by 2026 under the American Health Care Act. (sasint/Pixabay)
May 31, 2017

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - AARP representatives from South Dakota and across the country are to converge on the nation's capital next week to meet with members of Congress and express their opposition to the GOP's latest health-care bill on behalf of Americans age 50 and older.

The House version of the American Health Care Act includes a so-called "age tax," which allows insurers to charge older customers five times what they charge younger ones. It's currently capped at three times as much. South Dakota AARP state director Erik Gaikowski, who will be at the Capitol next week, said this provision and others will hurt the state's largely rural residents.

"It's very concerning," he said, "that farmers, ranchers, small business owners, laborers really will be adversely affected by an age tax and pre-existing conditions, and then weakening of Medicaid."

AARP state directors and presidents will be in Washington, D.C., on June 7.

Last week's analysis of the House bill by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found it would reduce the deficit by $119 billion over the next decade, but 23 million fewer Americans would have health insurance.

The bill would cut Medicaid spending by more than $830 billion by 2026. The program had been expanded under the Affordable Care Act, which Gaikowski said has helped many South Dakotans pay for long-term care. States also would have the option of asking for waivers to allow insurance companies to charge more for covering pre-existing conditions.

Gaikowski said he worries that some folks age 50 and older might choose to go uninsured until they can qualify for Medicare.

"That's going to produce a pretty strong pull on the budget on Medicare," he said, "which is going to potentially lead to Medicare cuts down the road or just additional resources having to go into Medicare to cover those costs of those individuals that we could have taken care of in those preventative services, from the ages of 50 to 64."

The American Health Care Act now is in the U.S. Senate, where members have said major elements are likely to be changed.

The CBO report on the AHCA is online at cbo.gov.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - SD