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Opponents Say GOP Health Care Bill "Price Gouges" Older Americans

North Dakota would lose out on at least $1.7 billion over the next two decades if the Cassidy-Graham health care bill is passed. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
North Dakota would lose out on at least $1.7 billion over the next two decades if the Cassidy-Graham health care bill is passed. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
September 22, 2017

FARGO, N.D. - With a week to go before repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act becomes much harder, Republicans are hoping to get the votes they need on a new bill introduced by Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. However, the bill is facing a lot of pushback, including from health-care organizations such as the American Heart Association, the American Medical Association and the March of Dimes.

AARP also opposes it, and Josh Askvig, state director of AARP North Dakota, said the bill "price gouges" older Americans by allowing insurers to charge five times what they would charge younger Americans.

"It also price gouges people with cancer, heart disease and even asthma," Askvig said, "and, if that's not enough, it also jeopardizes older North Dakotans' ability to stay in their own home as they age and threatens coverage for people with disabilities and seniors in nursing homes."

In the best-case scenario, Askvig said, the state would lose out on $1.7 billion over the next two decades, according to an AARP Public Policy Institute analysis of the bill. In the worst-case scenario, the state could lose $5.5 billion over the next two decades.

The Cassidy-Graham bill is similar to the GOP's previous attempts to repeal and replace the ACA. Under the last attempt, the Congressional Budget Office estimated 47,000 North Dakotans would lose health coverage over the next decade. Nationwide, it found 32 million Americans would lose coverage. Askvig said he would rather see Congress fix health care than fast-track the current proposal.

"Instead of doing a rush job simply because you have a deadline," he said, "let's find a real, workable solution that curbs costs, that provides better health care and more affordable access for all Americans, including older North Dakotans."

Republicans have until Sept. 30 to pass a bill while a filibuster-free procedural rule is still in place. After that, the Senate would need to find 60 votes to bypass a filibuster.

The AARP Policy Institute's North Dakota study is online at aarp.org.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ND