DEFEATED SENATE HEALTH CARE BILL WAS UNFAIR AND UNAFFORDABLE FOR MAINERS
AARP Maine was opposed to this deeply flawed legislation after analysis showed that it would have a disastrous impact on Mainers 50 and older. During the crucial weeks of June and July, when a vote was imminent and the pressure on Senators across the country was mounting, volunteers, staff and local residents met with both Senator Collins and Senator King to express our concerns. AARP Maine urged both Senators to reject this or any other health care plan that would have a negative impact on millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Mainers. Our message was simple: “Americans deserve legislation that is about health and about care. This bill is neither.”
Both Senators received thousands of calls from Maine constituents, and AARP Maine launched a Facebook video campaign featuring stories of real Mainers expressing their concerns. Ultimately, both Senators voted “no” and the final version of the legislation, the so-called “skinny bill” did not pass. Again, Mainers picked up the phone to call Senators Collins and King, this time to thank them for their vote.
AARP Maine thanks all Mainers who took the time to make their voices heard on this critical issue. AARP Maine will continue to fight for long-term health care solutions that make sense for you and for your family.
RECAP OF THE BILL:
After working behind closed doors, Senate leadership finally released their health care bill – The Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) in June. It was clear why the Senate bill was crafted in secret. The legislation could have made adequate health insurance coverage unaffordable for millions of older Americans and would have been a travesty for Maine.
First of all, the Senate bill would have had a disproportionate impact on older adults by allowing insurance companies to charge them more due to their age. This means that people between the ages of 50 and 64 who buy health insurance on their own could have been charged 5 times (or more) what someone under 50 pays. This is what we call an Age Tax. According to the AARP Public Policy Institute (PPI), costs for insurance coverage would have dramatically increased. For example, older Mainers who earn $45,000/year would have lost premium tax subsidies under the bill and would have had to pay as much as $14,000 more annually. This would have been alarming news for the nation’s oldest state.
Secondly, the bill would have allowed states to waive important consumer protections including what are known as “essential health benefits.” This would have permitted insurance companies to either discontinue coverage or significantly increase the cost of coverage they offer. Anyone with a pre-existing condition would have been at risk if this were to happen. 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.
In addition, Medicaid 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 long-term care at home or in nursing homes. The Senate bill proposed cuts to Medicaid (MaineCare) in the billions of dollars and would have allowed states to create a capped financing structure. This would have affected older Mainers through a spending limit system called a “per capita cap.” This spending cap would have given Maine a fixed dollar amount per enrolled Medicaid beneficiary. In Maine, the projected Medicaid caps would have caused a $13 billion-$26 billion shortfall over a 20 year period. Simply put, these deep cuts to Medicaid would have placed current beneficiaries at great risk of losing the services and supports they need whether at home or in a nursing home. Maine has already had several nursing homes close and family caregivers cannot be expected to shoulder more caregiving responsibilities.
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued their analysis of the bill in July and reported that if the bill passed, 22 million Americans would lose their health care coverage by 2026. Millions would have lost coverage in the first year. Placing the nation’s most vulnerable residents in such a position became even more egregious in light of the fact that the bill called for tens of billions in tax breaks for drug and insurance companies.
AARP across the country and right here in Maine will continue to closely monitor the debate over health care. Again, we thank you for speaking up on this critical issue.