Earlier this week, Congressional Republicans unveiled their plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA). Only two days later, the bill was debated and voted on by the House Committees on Energy & Commerce and Ways & Means. In response, Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center (Medicare Rights), sent a letter to the Committee leadership explaining why Medicare Rights cannot support the legislation or the process behind it.
Mr. Baker writes, “We are deeply disappointed with the secretive and rushed manner in which AHCA has been deliberated, shared, and advanced. Historically, both Committees have developed health care proposals through transparent means…Proposals to fundamentally restructure the ACA and Medicaid—like those included in AHCA—should be treated no differently.”
Process aside, Mr. Baker raises serious concerns with elements of AHCA that Medicare Rights believes would result in higher health care costs or coverage losses for older adults, people with disabilities, and their families. AHCA’s changes to the Marketplaces and Medicaid would make coverage far more expensive—likely putting it out of reach—for Americans in their 50s and 60s who are not yet eligible for Medicare and for people receiving Social Security disability benefits who are in the required two-year Medicare waiting period.
AHCA ends the Medicaid expansion, allows insurers to charge older enrollees even higher premiums, and provides less generous assistance to help people in the Marketplaces afford premiums and cost sharing. AHCA also makes fundamental changes to Medicaid—cutting federal payments to the program through what’s known as a per-capita cap—that could significantly harm older adults and people with disabilities who rely on both Medicare and Medicaid.
Mr. Baker continues, “Ten million people with Medicare rely on Medicaid to cover vital long-term home health care and nursing home services, to help afford their Medicare costs, and more. Federal cuts to Medicaid brought about by per-capita caps would drive states to make hard choices, likely leading states to scale back benefits, impose waiting lists, implement unaffordable financial obligations, or otherwise restrict access to needed care for older adults and people with disabilities.”
Finally, the letter expresses alarm at provisions in AHCA that would undermine Medicare. In a separate statement on the bill, Mr. Baker says, “AHCA creates a tax windfall for the wealthiest Americans at Medicare’s expense. The law repeals a modest tax increase on only the highest earners that helped put Medicare on strong financial footing, thereby manufacturing a Medicare funding crisis that could be used later in the name of cutting earned Medicare benefits.”