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ACA Replacement: Impact on CO's Aging Population is Unresolved

The U.S. House is set to vote on a new health care plan on Thursday, the seven-year anniversary of President Obama's signing the Affordable Care Act. (Pixabay)
The U.S. House is set to vote on a new health care plan on Thursday, the seven-year anniversary of President Obama's signing the Affordable Care Act. (Pixabay)
March 22, 2017

DENVER – On Tuesday, the U.S. House presented new amendments hoping to shore up votes for its plan to replace the Affordable Care Act - but at least one major hurdle is unresolved. The nation's largest advocacy group for people 50 and over, representing 660,000 Coloradans and 38 million nationwide, is asking politicians to take a time out.

Citing findings by the Congressional Budget Office, Bob Murphy, AARP Colorado's state director, says the plan as written would disproportionately impact that age group.

"In most cases, it would not be unusual for Americans in that age bracket, from 50 to 64, to see their premiums go up $8,400 a year," he explained. "So, that's a lot of money, at a time in life when a lot of those folks can least afford it."

He adds a payroll tax under Obamacare on people earning more than $250,000 a year was designed to keep Medicare solvent until 2028, and repealing that tax under the new plan would shave at least four years off that date. The White House and congressional leaders argue the law would ultimately reduce the national deficit and health costs.

Murphy points to CBO estimates that 24 million Americans could lose coverage under the new plan, and says costs would rise because people without insurance won't have access to preventive care.

"As opposed to the alternative, when you're uninsured, which is you wait until you're very sick and you go into the emergency room for treatment, the most expensive form of health care," he added.

Murphy also adds that the proposal to shift some $370 billion in Medicaid costs to states would be particularly hard on Colorado, which has a tough time funding roads and schools under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, and could push struggling rural hospitals over the edge.

"These are often the only place within six, seven, eight counties that deliver babies, the only place that offers all-encompassing health care," he said. "And they also tend to be the largest employers in the region. Well now, what happens if they close?"

House Speaker Paul Ryan has said a vote on the American Health Care Act could come as soon as Thursday. Murphy thinks a better move would be for Congress to pause the process, take a deep breath, and have an inclusive conversation about how to move forward in a way that protects all Americans.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO