The Latest on Health Care: What Mainers Need to Know
After working behind closed doors yet again, Senate leadership was considering a vote on a new health care bill this week in a last-ditch attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The bill was known simply as Graham-Cassidy, named for Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) who drafted it. By Monday, September 25, three Republican Senators, including Maine Senator Susan Collins, had publicly voiced their opposition to the bill and their intent to vote “no” should it reach the Senate floor. By Tuesday afternoon, September 26, it became clear that the bill did not have the votes to pass and the bill was pulled – sparing older Americans from what could have been the worst one yet .
On behalf of our 230,000 members and their families in the state, we thank Senator Susan Collins for once again standing strong for Maine and opposing this flawed legislation.
BY THE NUMBERS: Research from multiple sources, including the AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI), demonstrated that Graham-Cassidy would have increased costs and made coverage unaffordable for millions of older Americans. This would have been a travesty for Maine.
Graham-Cassidy would also have cut billions of dollars in Medicaid funding, hurting the most vulnerable Mainers. Medicaid, known in our state as MaineCare, is a lifeline for 268,000 Mainers of all ages including individuals living with disabilities and low and middle-income seniors who depend on it for care at home or in nursing homes. The Graham-Cassidy bill proposed cuts to Medicaid (MaineCare) in the billions of dollars, and would have required states to adopt a capped financing structure. This would have affected older Mainers through a spending limit system called a “per capita cap”, which would have given Maine a fixed dollar amount per enrolled Medicaid beneficiary.
- cut between $7.7 billion and $20.9 billion from total (federal and state) Medicaid spending in Maine over the 20-year period between 2017 and 2036 under the Medicaid per capita caps.
- amounted to a cut in federal Medicaid funding of up to $13.4 billion under per capita caps from 2017-2036 versus current law.
Additionally, Graham-Cassidy would have had a disproportionate impact on older adults purchasing coverage in the individual market. Under the bill older Americans could potentially be charged more simply due to their age. This means that people between the ages of 50 and 64 buying health insurance on their own could have been charged more than five times what other individuals pay. In addition to raising premiums, the bill also repealed tax credits and assistance with out-of-pocket costs (cost-sharing reductions) that enabled Mainers to afford their insurance and health care. This is what we call an Age Tax. According to PPI, costs for insurance coverage would have dramatically increased an alarming trend for the nation’s oldest state.
For example, PPI numbers for Maine show that:
- A 60-year old Mainer earning $25,000 a year could have seen her premium increase by more than $10,000 a year in 2020.
- A 60-year old Mainer could have seen their overall total health care costs (premiums and out-of-pocket) increase by $16,437 by 2020.
Finally, the bill would have also stripped away critical protections that prevent insurance companies from charging someone more because they have a pre-existing condition like asthma or diabetes. There are currently 123,000 Mainers living with pre-existing conditions including chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. This provision in the bill would have been devastating to these individuals as well as their families.
Again, we thank Senator Collins for standing strong and opposing Graham-Cassidy.
Across the country and right here in Maine, AARP will continue to closely monitor the debate over health care. AARP remains committed to working with Congress on commonsense, bipartisan solutions to increase coverage, lower costs, and stabilize the health care market.