For many older Americans, costs rise in GOP health plan
new ringgold, pa.» Among the groups hit hardest by the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act is one that swung for Donald Trump during last year’s presidential race — older Americans who have not yet reached Medicare age.
Many of those who buy their own health insurance stand to pay a lot more for their coverage. That is especially true for the nearly 3.4 million older Americans who have enrolled through the government marketplaces, many of whom receive generous federal subsidies through the health care law enacted under former President Barack Obama.
Health care experts predict those older adults will end up buying skimpier plans with lower coverage and higher deductibles because that’s all they will be able to afford. The Republican plan replaces the subsidies in the Affordable Care Act, which mostly benefit low- and middle-income earners, with a flat tax credit that does not take into account income or local insurance prices.
On top of that, the GOP plan allows insurers to charge older people five times what they charge younger customers, compared with three times under Obama’s health care law.
The Republican plan is still evolving, and many GOP lawmakers have said they want to see changes that reduce the impact on older consumers before they can support it.
Based on the current plan, an Associated Press analysis of data from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows older consumers, defined as those age 55 and older, would be disproportionately affected. They could lose thousands of dollars per year in government subsidies for health insurance.
The AP analysis also found that, on average, the counties with the strongest Trump support will see costs for older enrollees rise 50 percent more than the counties that had the least amount of support for Trump.
“A lot of people just won’t be able to afford to pay it. A lot of people are going to drop out of the market altogether,” said Kaiser’s Cynthia Cox.
That includes older voters who helped put Trump in the White House.
Take Schuylkill County, Pa., an economically struggling former coal-mining center where the New York billionaire won 70 percent of the vote in November.
About 40 percent of Schuylkill County’s Affordable Care Act enrollees are 55 or older, more than 10 points higher than the national average. A 60-yearold making $30,000 annually there will pay about $8,750 more per year for coverage under the Republican plan moving through Congress, according to the AP analysis.
“When it comes to food or insurance, it’s going to be an easy choice,” said Matt Strauss, a health insurance broker in New Ringgold, some of whose customers voted for Trump.
Older Americans on both ends of the political spectrum say they are worried about what the future holds. Here are some of their stories:
Trump supporter and longtime Republican Robert Ruscoe, who runs a Florida liquidating business with his wife, said he is not feeling “warm and fuzzy” about the GOP health care plan.
He went about five years without insurance because it was financially out of reach. When insurance became available through the Affordable Care Act, Ruscoe and his wife were able to get a policy for about $350 per month, after a $700 monthly subsidy from the government.
“It’snicetobeabletogoto the doctor whenever something comes up. It gives you a peace ... especially when you get close to 60,” said Ruscoe, 57, of West Palm Beach, Fla.
He said he didn’t hesitate to sign up through the Affordable Care Act, a program his party spent years vowing to dismantle.
“It doesn’t matter who came up with it. It’s a good thing to be supporting across party lines,” he said.
Anna Holloway of Norman, Okla., who takes daily medication for an autoimmune disease, said she is fearful the GOP plan will price her out of the market for health insurance.
“I am conscious of just how desperate this is,” said Holloway, 60, fighting back tears. “I try not to let myself feel this way, but to live this way with real terror, real fear that the universe is going to fall apart around me.”
She takes home about $1,150 per month from four part-time jobs. That’s only $250 more than the monthly premium for a health care plan that includes Holloway and her 23-year-old daughter. Without the government subsidy that makes the policy affordable, she would have to drop it.
The Kaiser analysis estimates that a family plan in Norman under the current Republican proposal would cost as much as $20,000 more for someone in Holloway’s income and age bracket.
“I’d go without health care. I would get sicker, and that would make it more difficult to work. I would eventually have to stop working,” said Holloway, a registered Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton.
The Affordable Care Act didn’t work for Wendy Kline, a hairstylist in Harrisburg, Pa., who voted for Trump.
Kline tried buying a policy on the federal exchange but found that she made too much money to qualify for a government subsidy. So she was stuck paying the market rate.
Her policy jumped this year from $630 to $929 per month. As a result, the 61year-old isn’t able to save much for retirement.
“I try to put as much away as I can, but my health insurance is $30 less than my mortgage payment,” said Kline, who works two jobs.