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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 12, 2017

AARP raising awareness of what’s in health bills

Jun 28, 2017

By Christina Crippes, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier

 

CEDAR FALLS -- Evidence for how quickly things are changing around a Republican effort to begin to dismantle the Affordable Care Act was on full display at a meeting the nonpartisan AARP held for its members Tuesday afternoon in Cedar Falls.

Anthony Carroll, AARP associate state director for advocacy, noted at the outset of his presentation that a bill could come before the U.S. Senate this week. Less than 90 minutes later one of the 100-plus people in the audience alerted him to the breaking news that a vote on the Senate bill would be delayed.

Still, that did not change the crux of Carroll’s argument to the crowd to keep contacting their federal delegation and sharing their concerns about the federal efforts to change health care. Nor did it change -- yet, anyway -- what’s in the bill and how it could affect Iowans 50 and older.

“Older Iowans, and all Americans, will pay more for less coverage. That’s the reality. That’s if this passes as is in the Senate,” Carroll said. “Our health care system, I think we all acknowledge, needs some improvements.”

But he said the biggest issues for older Iowans, the high cost of prescriptions and insurance, are “either unaddressed by this bill or made worse.”

One attendee sought to understand, if the bill was as bad as Carroll laid out, what are the reasons it has support. Carroll deflected to the lawmakers, but noted Iowa lawmakers have stressed the need to “do something” because of the state’s challenges with the individual market.

Carroll listed three main concerns in both bills that would have the greatest impact on older Iowans:

The bill’s cuts to Medicare, the federal program that insures Iowans 65 and older, reduce the solvency of the trust fund, currently expected to be depleted in 2028, by two to four years, which could mean more drastic changes in the future.

The Medicaid cuts -- $772 billion in the Senate, and $834 billion in the House over 10 years -- could impact either older people with disabilities, or the program provides much of the coverage for long-term care for older Americans.

The changes to the individual marketplace for older Iowans could mean dramatic cost spikes in their health coverage, up to $4,800 more for those making about $25,000 a year or up to $13,700 more a year for those making around $56,000.

“It’s hard, because these are alarming things that this bill does, so again, I encourage you to channel those head knocks into activity. That’s all we can ask you to do,” Carroll said.

It was clear from the crowd there were at least figurative head knocks. Several wanted to make clear that these health care cuts were going to pay for tax cuts; others laughed as people questioned how the bills would reduce insurance costs or noted how little the bills address concerns about prescription drug costs.

Vivian Betts, of Waterloo, summed up that frustration near the end of the meeting.

“This is a massive shift of wealth on the backs of people who have the least amount of clout, whether they’re poor, whether they’re disabled, whether they are seniors, whatever, and I think it’s clear that what the bill is accomplishing is to reward the very organizations that are driving up the costs of health care,” Betts said. “The bottom line is if we don’t say something, it is going to happen.”

AARP Iowa released the results of a poll it conducted showing the attendees at the Cedar Falls meeting are not alone in their opposition to the bills. The poll showed Iowans 50 and older had 91 percent opposed to charging older Iowans more on the marketplace; 79 percent opposed to Medicaid cuts; and 88 percent opposed to Medicare cuts.

Both Carroll and local AARP volunteer leader Dean Pedersen said the Cedar Falls stop mirrored the interest in others done across the state. The tour on health care will wrap up with stops in Dubuque on Wednesday and Davenport on Thursday.

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