AHCA: How the Battle to Save Obamacare May Soon Be Joined

AHCA: How the Battle to Save Obamacare May Soon Be Joined March 10, 2017
Alone, the poor and disabled have little power. But the AHCA is waking a napping giant, the AARP.
Photo credit: Roger Blackwell.

Hell hath no fury like a senior lobby swarmed. While a growing list of stakeholder medical organizations are coming out against the American Health Care Act, the most powerful bear being baited by the AHCA is the American Association of Retired Persons.

Seniors vote.

And that gives them power. Sadly, the biggest losers in the bill — those in the lower income brackets — don’t tend to vote. I will delve more deeply into their plight (and mine, as a Medicaid recipient) in my next post.

Under the provisions of the bill, the second most disadvantaged group are people 50 and over. In other words, AARP’s 38 million members — not to mention the rest of the 108.7 million Americans over 50 (as of 2014). AARP is best known as a senior citizen organization, yet membership qualification starts at 50.

The AHCA’S paltry tax credits rise according to age, but not insurance cost and fall far short of the credits provided by Obamacare. Furthermore, it allows insurance companies to once again tap the veins of older people (more on that in a bit).

It’s a rite of passage for the middle aged — or more accurately, added insult — when people receive their first invitation to become a member of AARP after they turn 50.

Happy Birthday! Congratulations, you’re growing old!

Many eventually stop tossing those little rude awakenings into the trash. They join the ever-renewing ranks of the AARP grey lobby corps.

Decades ago, the AARP managed to mobilize its troops to quash a backfired Reagan-era effort that would’ve cost seniors more money for a benefit that didn’t want. That might sound like a replay of Republican arguments against Obamacare’s policy requirements. But there’s a huge difference between giving a costly and unasked-for benefit as a sop to Democrats (after attempting to reduce Social Security payments) and taking away health insurance from people years away from qualifying for Medicare.

AHCA: Yanking Rug from Under the Aging

According to The New York Times

While the tax credits in the Republican proposal are the most generous for older people — $4,000 for a 60-year-old compared with $2,000 for a 25-year-old — they end up covering less of an older person’s costs. As soon as next year, the Republican plan would allow insurers to begin charging older individuals much more than younger individuals. Insurers are prohibited today from charging the older person more than three times as much as the youngest, but the Republican plan would allow them to charge five times as much. A 64-year-old could see annual premiums increase by almost 30 percent to $13,100 on average, according to the S.&P. analysis. [Emphasis mine.]

Of course, the AARP will have to get in line behind the myriad opponents of Ryancare, Trumpcare, or Obamacare lite, as some conservative lawmakers have branded it. Indeed, the bill is caught in a political pincer between moderate and conservative Republicans. And of course it’s facing the united opposition of the Democrats.

And let’s not forget that every major medical professional and hospital association has come out against the bill. Even a Trump sycophant like Tom Cotton is attacking it. No wonder that the House is rushing the AHCA through without waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to weigh in on the costs and how many people would lose insurance under the AHCA.

Not coincidentally, if, as is likely, the CBO finds that the AHCA will add to the budget deficit over a decade, the GOP won’t be able to pass the bill through the reconciliation process. This legislative workaround would allow them to pass the act with a simple majority vote, instead requiring a filibuster-proof supermajority.

Never fear, Speaker Ryan, the White House is working the refs by denouncing the CBO in advance of their findings, which is expected on Monday.

The slashed taxes of the 1 percent alone would raise the deficit considerably. The AHCA is welfare for the well-heeled, a $600 billion dollar tax cut to the wealthy that has been dubbed a reverse Robin Hood. It robs from the poor and gives to the rich.

According to Joint Committee on Taxation, as reported by Vox:

The main answer, for Republicans is Congress, is that it also contains $600 billion in tax cuts — tax cuts that would save the wealthiest 0.1 percent of Americans nearly $200,000 each in a single year, according to a batch of analyses released by the Joint Committee on Taxation on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, millions will instantly find health insurance out of reach due to the greatly reduced tax credits and subsidies. If the CBO pronounces that significant numbers of Americans will lose their health insurance, the Republicans will face a buzz saw of public opposition.

This outcome is a certainty.

Don’t forget that many millions — perhaps tens of millions — will lose their healthcare or have it severely limited by the AHCA’s Medicaid block grants. As I said, I will deal with the Medicaid issue in far more depth in my next post. But for now, I want to talk about the reasons for hope that this healthcare apocalypse can be averted.

AHCA: The Enemy is at the Gates…and Inside, Too

The AHCA has passed its first two committee hurdles — including a 4 a.m. Ways and Means vote. Still, it seems that few Republicans actually like it.

Who could’ve predicted that a plan forced to retain parts of Obamacare (to capture moderate Republican support), while increasing the budget deficit, eliminating health insurance for millions — and also hurting Republican-controlled states that expanded their Medicaid rolls — would become a red-headed stepchild?

Not President Trump, who said:

Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.

Remember, that the GOP only has a two-vote majority in the Senate. Four moderate Republicans from expansion states have announced that they would oppose any plan that would result in reductions of coverage for their constituents.

Thank you, democracy! Or should I say, fear of voter backlash?

On the right — far right — those meager concessions to the moderates have made the AHCA unacceptable. RedState, National Review, and even Trump administration favorite Breitbart are massing against the bill.

Yet, if Trump’s pressure — this is the man who put the bully into the bully pulpit — manages to corral Thanks to organizations like the AARP, the AHCA will soon find itself under siege.recalcitrant Republicans, I think the outside opponents will start building their siege engines.

Among those, the AARP may be the napping giant. It’s not well known to the public, but two thirds of nursing home residents can only afford to be there because Medicaid supplements their Medicare payments.

And also due to the aforementioned middle aged members, the AARP recognizes that:

Individuals with disabilities of all ages and older adults rely on critical Medicaid services.

Though the poor and disabled alone may not have enough political strength to thwart the gutting of their healthcare, large and powerful organizations like the AARP do. The AHCA is still in flux. Thus far, the AARP has sending out cautionary press releases and blog posts.

But the AARP has a history of taking their walkers to the streets. And now that the organization has formally come out in opposition to the AHCA, the battle is joined.

As someone with disabilities, I say…

Onward senior soldiers, marching as to mahjong!


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