B’nai B’rith International President Gary P. Saltzman and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin have issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith is disappointed that the United States House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The act passed by a vote of 217 to 213. We strongly urge the Senate to reject the House plan, which would have a negative consequence for many communities, including low-income seniors.
The bill allows states to waive important pre-existing conditions protections, which would allow insurance companies to charge people higher premiums based on their health. This could make access to quality health care extremely difficult for seniors, who often have more health care needs than other groups, despite the potential for additional funding for so-called high risk pools of people. We are concerned that the additional $8 billion in the Upton Amendment set aside for such groups is not enough of a cushion to properly provide health care for people with pre-existing conditions.
Low-income seniors with pre-existing conditions, like cancer, diabetes and heart disease, cannot afford higher premiums, which could effectively lower their quality of life by forcing those of limited means to make difficult choices on how to spend their fixed incomes: choosing, for instance, between paying rent or paying for medicines.
The AHCA provisions also would allow insurance companies to charge older adults much more than younger adults for their premiums. This provision could mean the cost of a premium for an older adult is five times the amount that a younger person pays. This is a dramatic increase over the current Affordable Care Act.
Additionally, B’nai B’rith is concerned about the plan’s changes to Medicaid. Funding Medicaid through a per capita cap program, or a block grant, places unnecessary strains on state budgets, which in turn, could negatively impact low-income seniors. For example, nursing facilities and community based services which help countless seniors, could be negatively impacted by the potential decrease in federal funding.
We are also troubled that the AHCA will make the Medicare Part A Trust Fund go insolvent more quickly because of the repeal of the .9 percent Hospital Insurance trust fund payroll tax. According to the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, repealing the Medicare Part A .9 percent Hospital Insurance trust fund payroll tax on wages above $200,000 per individual or $250,000 per couple will increase the trust fund’s insolvency rate and thus make Medicare more financially vulnerable.
The AHCA allows states to waive out of essential health benefits, and insurance companies could sell plans that don’t include outpatient care, emergency services, hospitalization, prescription drugs, lab work and preventative care. Older Americans benefit from these services, and waiving out these benefits could drive up health care costs.
This plan has a patent disregard for the true health care needs of too many Americans, including seniors.
B’nai B’rith, which has long been an advocate for the health and safety of older adults, has spoken out in favor of shoring up the existing Affordable Care Act, which provides some important protections for seniors and those with disabilities.