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Tennesseans: Prepare for "Age Tax" Under Health Care Bill, Say Opponents

AARP and other groups call the American Health Care Act's provision that allows people over 50 to be charged more for health coverage an "age tax." (sparkle glowpug/Flickr)
AARP and other groups call the American Health Care Act's provision that allows people over 50 to be charged more for health coverage an "age tax." (sparkle glowpug/Flickr)
May 15, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Analysts predict insurance premiums could go up by as much as $8,000 for people 50 and older under the American Health Care Act that will go before the U.S. Senate in the coming days.

In addition to removing protections for people with pre-existing conditions, the bill would allow insurers to charge as much as five times the premiums for older policyholders compared to their younger counterparts. The plan is raising concerns for people like Cecilia Munoz, who served as director of domestic policy in the Obama administration.

"The AARP is calling what the House passed an 'age tax.' If Congress is going to be tinkering with health care coverage, they should be focusing on ways to make sure that costs go down, rather than up,” Munoz said. "The results of what the House passed are really very clear: people lose coverage, fewer people will have coverage; the people who have coverage will be paying more for their premiums."

AARP estimates premiums would increase for all ages starting at about age 46. While people between the ages of 20 and 29 will see some savings, it would amount to about $700 a year. The advocacy group also estimates 40 percent of adults ages 50 to 64 have a pre-existing condition that could cause their coverage to be denied.

Dave Chaney, vice president with the Tennessee Medical Association, said he and others are concerned about any possible reduction in state block-grant funding that supports programs such as TennCare.

"And in Tennessee we've supported block grants, or a per-capita allotment, to give the flexibility in how we administer our Medicaid program or TennCare,” Chaney said. “But when we're talking about a reduction in where states would likely receive less money from the Federal government, then states are going to be unable to cover more people without changing eligibility requirements or benefits. "

As someone who worked closely in the development of the Affordable Care Act, Munoz said it's important to remember how long it took to get some form of universal coverage for Americans.

"It took us 100 years to get to the health care reform law that passed in the Obama administration,” she said. "Once you land on sort of the first iteration of health care, it's not going to be perfect. But we should be talking about making it better, not getting into a situation where millions of people lose their coverage."

Munoz said "making the plan better" means looking at ways to lower medical costs and prescription drug expenses.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN