Skyrocketing health care premiums, cuts in Medicare benefits, elimination of the Healthy Michigan program, reductions in money available for in-home services – these are among concerns older Michiganders shared in personal stories today at a news conference hosted by AARP Michigan about how the proposed American Health Care Act  may impact their lives.

The plan, which would be a replacement for the Affordable Care Act, may come to a vote in Congress as soon as this week.

Chris Tarpoff of East Lansing stressed the importance of protecting and strengthening Medicare.

“Protecting Medicare protects our health and financial security in retirement,” Tarpoff said at the AARP Michigan headquarters in downtown Lansing. “Converting it to a voucher system or health savings account would force many to choose between health care and other necessities. There are other ways to save money, such as negotiating lower costs for prescription drugs, like the Veterans Administration has done for years.”

Willie Vinson of Lansing is concerned about the availability of in-home services provided by Medicaid dollars.

“I’m 77 years old, and I’m thankful I don’t need these services now. But I’m worried they won’t be available if and when I need them,” she said.

Howard Pizzo of Grand Ledge said he’s worried elimination of the Healthy Michigan program will likely mean his 20-year-old granddaughter will lose her health care.

Diane Bright of Troy talked about how age rating boosts in the proposed health care plan could mean thousands of dollars in insurance costs.

AARP Michigan opposes the American Health Care Act. The plan would weaken Medicare’s fiscal sustainability; dramatically increase health care costs for Michiganders age 50-64, and put at risk the health care of millions of children and adults with disabilities, and poor seniors who depend on the Medicaid program for long-term services and supports and other benefits.

In examining the combined impact of the bill’s tax credit changes and increase in age rating, AARP found that premiums for older adults could increase by as much as $8,400 for a 64-year-old earning $15,000 a year. The bill’s rating provisions would enable insurance companies to charge older adults five times as much as younger consumers. Age rating plus the bill’s premium increases amount to an unaffordable age tax, which would price many vulnerable seniors out of the health coverage market.

“This bill would increase costs and risks for older Michiganders,” said Paula D. Cunningham, AARP Michigan State Director. “It gives tax breaks to big drug and health insurance companies while allowing those companies to overcharge older adults by thousands of dollars a year.

“It shortens the life of Medicare, which serves 1.8 million Michiganders, leaving the door open to benefit cuts and Medicare vouchers. And it threatens services at home and in the community that seniors count on,” Cunningham said.

In Michigan, the replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act threatens to eliminate the Healthy Michigan program, which provides Medicaid coverage to 665,000 low-to-moderate income Michiganders, including more than 160,000 aged 50 to 64.

About 2.2 million citizens, or 23 percent of Michigan’s population, receive health care or long-term supports and services through Medicaid, which could be greatly reduced under a block grant approach to funding.

Assistance in the form of tax credits or subsidies for lower-and moderate-income older adults could be reduced by as much as $5,900 for an individual. More than 105,000 Michiganders currently receive health care subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, many of them older adults.

“As we’ve seen here today, this proposal is a bad deal for Americans, and for Michiganders,” Cunningham said. “AARP will fight to ensure that any health care legislation protects Medicare, lowers prescription drug prices, stops insurance companies from overcharging older Americans, and protects older Americans’ ability to live independently.”