Editor’s note: The Senate is debating its own version of health care reform as a potential replacement for the Affordable Care Act. A vote was expected to occur before the Fourth of July Congressional break but has been postponed. Senators could vote on the bill in the coming weeks, and the House may have to vote again.
The recently passed American Health Care Act (AHCA) by the U.S. House of Representatives would drastically affect the livelihood of older citizens. Imposing a so-called “Age Tax” on those 50-64 and weakening coverage for those with pre-existing health conditions are of great concern to AARP South Carolina and residents of the 7th Congressional district.
The “Age Tax” would fall hardest on consumers age 50 to 64, who are still too young for Medicare. The AHCA discriminates against 6.1 million Americans ages 50-64 in the individual (non-group) health insurance market by allowing insurance companies to charge older people five times or more what others pay for the same coverage. Current law allows health insurers to charge older adults up to three times what they charge other people. About 105,144 South Carolinians between the ages of 50 and 64 are enrolled in the individual market and would be impacted by the AHCA’s age tax.
Current law also prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage, charging higher premiums, and imposing coverage limits or exclusions to people with pre-existing conditions. Unfortunately, these protections are at risk with the recently House-passed measure. The AHCA would allow insurance companies to once again charge higher premiums based on a person’s health condition, significantly raising premiums and making health care unaffordable.
A recent AARP study found 42 percent of older adults in South Carolina ages 50-64 – or about 400,861 in this age group – could be charged higher premiums for health coverage because of a pre-existing condition if they sought to buy an individual plan. In Congressional District 7, the number of adults 50 - 64 with pre-existing conditions is around 100,000. If such basic protections are weakened or eliminated, and high-risk pools put into place, premiums for these people could be as high as $25,700 annually in the individual insurance marketplace.
The American Health Care Act would make health care unaffordable and inaccessible for millions of Americans. The financial burden of a health care “Age Tax” and discriminating against nearly a half million older South Carolinians with pre-existing conditions would be a disaster for their personal pocketbooks.
The writer lives in Conway and is AARP S.C. Executive Council, Representing Seventh Congressional District.