Late night meetings in Washington could mean higher health care costs, especially for older Americans   After the health care bill failed to make it to the floor of the US House of Representatives, leaders in Washington have been meeting behind closed doors to resurrect the bill.  Problem is, they’re making a bad bill even worse.

The legislation, called the American Health Care Act (AHCA) drew sharp and widespread criticism for many reasons, including increasing costs for older Americans.

The current version would allow insurance companies to charge older people five times what they charge others for the same coverage.  Compounding that problem, it would reduce the tax credit that lower- and middle-income Americans use to afford coverage.  Charging older adults five times more than others and changing the tax credit produces an “age tax” that could total up to $13,000 a year more for older people according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Since then, in an effort to round up more support, proponents have put forward another awful idea:  allowing insurance companies to deny coverage or dramatically increase costs for people with pre-existing health conditions like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Under current law, insurers are prevented from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions.  This protection is critically important to millions of Americans and their families.  Without it, they face the fear of great financial distress or ruin on top of dealing with a serious health problem.

People who are between ages 50 and 64 are especially at risk from a plan that would end or erode protection for those with a pre-existing health condition.  According to AARP’s Public Policy Institute, 40 percent of Americans in that age group—a total of 25 million people—have a pre-existing health condition.

To make matters worse, the bill would also weaken Medicare’s finances, opening the door for Medicare vouchers.  The 57 million Americans and the workers paying into the program could face increased costs and risks they can’t afford.

And, the bill does nothing to lower prescription drug prices while giving drug and insurance companies $200 billion in tax breaks.  From lifesaving cancer treatments to EpiPens, drug companies’ skyrocketing prices are pushing critical medications out of reach for those who need them.  Last year alone, prescription drug costs increased by thousands of dollars. There is no reason Americans should be paying the highest prices in the world.

Instead of the old saying, “First, do no harm”, this bill takes a radically different approach:  keep doing harm and hope people aren’t paying attention.

Let’s make sure our representatives understand we will not accept this legislation that punishes older Americans and rewards special interests.  We won’t just stand by as they cut backroom deals that cut down on our health care.  We won’t forget who supported this bill—and who stood against it.

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