Senate health care bill more expensive for seniors

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Senate health care bill more expensive for Hampton Roads residents

This story was updated June 29 to reflect comment from U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor.

Seniors in Hampton Roads will pay at least $1,300 more in health care premiums under the Better Care Reconciliation Act than they pay under the Affordable Care Act, according to a new map developed by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health organization.

The foundation's map, released this week, compares county-level projections of how premiums and tax credits for people enrolled in marketplaces set up by former President Barack Obama's signature health care law would change under the current version of the Senate's proposed replacement, the BCRA.

A 60-year-old who makes $30,000 a year could see a 71 percent to 99 percent net increase in premiums by 2020 — an additional $1,390 to $1,760 a month more for health insurance, depending on what plan he or she selects in the marketplace, the foundation map shows.

The map allows users to look at net premium changes by age and income. Premiums could increase for seniors in Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson and Williamsburg, and in Gloucester, York, Mathews and James City counties. People 60 and older in the nearby counties of Charles City, Surry and Middlesex face increases of more than 99 percent, the map shows.

"In general, older people fare not as well on the Senate plan compared to the Affordable Care Act," said Kaiser Family Foundation policy analyst Michelle Long. The maps show that seniors with higher incomes still face net premium increases of more than 30 percent.

Some people would pay less under the Senate proposal. A 27-year-old who makes $30,000 a year would see the cost of premiums drop between 29 percent and 33 percent — about $670 or more — the map shows. A 40-year-old who makes $30,000 a year would see the cost of premiums drop by 3 percent to 4 percent, or about $100 a month, by 2020.

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner has been critical of the BCRA, calling the bill harmful and short-sighted.

"This bill would kick millions of people off their insurance, raise health care costs for Virginians, especially seniors, and leave states on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars for Medicaid, which provides coverage for some of our most vulnerable citizens — including the elderly, the disabled and one-third of Virginia's children," Warner said in a statement.

Under the ACA, often called Obamacare, people with incomes between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level are eligible for premium tax credits to help pay for health insurance. People pay a percentage of their income toward plan costs, and the federal government pays the rest of the premium to the insurer, which is called the premium tax credit.

Nationally, the foundation found about 66 percent of those enrolled in marketplace plans have incomes around $31,250 — below 250 percent of poverty level. Roughly 36 percent of the people enrolled are under 35. Thirty-seven percent are between 35 and 54 and 27 percent are 55 or older.

Changes under the BCRA include lowering the poverty level limit to 350 percent, which means fewer people would be eligible for help with health care costs, Long said. The proposal also phases out the Medicaid expansion that gave access to the health insurance program to thousands more people, by 2021.

Medicaid would be funded differently, by block grants to states, instead of the federal government paying half the program's costs.

The Senate bill repeals a requirement that people have health insurance or face a penalty. It allows states to opt out state marketplace plans and strips federal funding from Planned Parenthood for a year.

Sen. Tim Kaine called the bill proposed by the GOP-led Senate not just mean, but cruel. "It would hurt Virginians — particularly seniors, children, people with disabilities, and working families — all to deliver a giant tax break to the wealthiest Americans and shift costs to the states."

Kaine criticized the bill's Medicaid cuts, adding that it hurts 22,000 Virginians who rely on Planned Parenthood for health care, weakens health benefits and raises health costs for Virginia's families.

The BCRA was panned by the American Medical Association, American Cancer Society, American Heart Association and the AARP, all who have stated the Senate's bill would reduce access to affordable health insurance and put people with pre-existing conditions at risk.

U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor, a Republican whose district reaches from Virginia Beach through Hampton and Newport News, said he would not comment on the bill until it was finalized. U.S. Rep Bobby Scott is a vocal supporter of the ACA, and said, “Trumpcare prioritizes the wealthiest Americans at the expense working families and older Americans.”

A vote on the BCRA was scheduled this week, but Senate Republicans postponed after party leaders said they lacked votes to pass the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, has said he plans to revise the bill and recirculate it by the end of the week.

Canty can be reached by phone at 757-247-4832.

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