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New health bill bad news for many in state

Jul 13, 2017 Sam Shumway, Cheyenne

Editor:

As members of the Congress return to session this week, AARP Wyoming is calling on U.S. Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso to vote no on the Senate's proposed health care bill. I am Wyoming's AARP state director.

The bill would impose an age tax on older Wyomingites, remove protections for people with pre-existing conditions, gut Medicaid, and threaten Medicare.

It increases premiums for lower- and middle-income older adults by eliminating or reducing tax credits and allowing insurers to charge older adults five times more than younger individuals for the same coverage (5:1 age rating).

And while all older adults will pay more, lower income individuals would be hardest hit. For example, in 2020, 60-year-olds in Wyoming earning $45,000 annually could pay as much as $16,180 more a year in premiums.

The Senate healthcare bill would allow states to waive protections for those with pre-existing conditions like cancer, diabetes, or asthma. It also includes $772 billion cut to Medicaid. This would strip away coverage for millions of Americans and leave millions of seniors at risk of not getting the care they need.

Regarding Medicare, this bill cuts nearly $59 billion over 10 years from the Hospital Insurance trust fund by repealing a 0.9 percent payroll tax on higher-income workers. This would hasten Medicare's insolvency and diminish the program's ability to pay for services in the future. The bill would also increase Medicare premiums by removing nearly $26 billion in required payments from pharmaceutical companies over 10 years from the Part B trust fund.

Currently, 92,492 Wyoming residents are on Medicare. Over the next 15 years that number will more than double when 118,734 individuals age 50-64 transition to Medicare. In all, these proposed cuts to Medicare will negatively impact over 36 percent of Wyoming's current population.

This is a bad deal for a lot of Wyoming residents. There will be a lot of people in Wyoming who will struggle and suffer under this proposed legislation. While we understand there is a need to make adjustments to how health care coverage works, this is not the way to do it. This bill isn't about helping people. It would mean higher costs and less care for older Americans. AARP encourages people in Wyoming to contact our senators and tell them to vote "no."

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