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Report: Wisconsin's older adults would pay thousands more under Republican health plan
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GOP HEALTH CARE PLAN | EFFECT IN WISCONSIN

Report: Wisconsin's older adults would pay thousands more under Republican health plan

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Wisconsin residents who are 64 years old, make $26,500 a year and buy health insurance individually would pay $5,300 to $13,000 a year more in premiums under the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, depending on where they live, a liberal watchdog group says.

Changes to the GOP plan, unveiled late Monday by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, would lower the costs for older people by allowing the Senate, if it chooses, to make tax credits more generous for that age group.

In Madison, a 64-year-old currently pays $1,852 a year through “Obamacare” after receiving $5,991 in tax credits, according to a Citizen Action of Wisconsin report released Tuesday.

Under the Republican plan, the same person would pay $7,764 a year in premiums after $4,000 in tax credits. That is $5,912 — or more than three times — more, the report says.

Republicans’ proposed American Health Care Act, which the House is expected to vote on Thursday, would reduce tax credits for some groups and allow insurers to charge older adults more.

Those changes mean a 64-year-old in La Crosse would have net premiums of $14,515 a year, up from $1,519 now, the Citizen Action report says. That is $12,996 — or more than eight times — more.

The Republican plan would “result in people suffering and dying prematurely,” said Dr. Cynthia Haq, a professor of family medicine and population health sciences at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

“People will have to forgo health insurance coverage,” Haq said. “They will not seek care. They will not get preventive services. They will not be able to manage their chronic diseases. As a result, they’ll show up in the emergency departments of hospitals in extreme crisis.”

Ryan, speaking on Fox News Sunday about the amendment introduced Monday, said tax credits for low-income older adults needed to be boosted. “We think that we should be offering even more assistance than what the bill currently does,” Ryan said.

Tax credits under the Affordable Care Act are based on income and the cost of insurance, which varies around the country. The credits most benefit people who are older, have low incomes and live in high-premiums areas.

Under the American Health Care Act, tax credits would be based primarily on age, with a 64-year-old receiving twice as much help as a 21-year-old. But insurers could charge older adults up to five times more than younger adults, compared to three times more today. Tax credits wouldn’t go up in high-premium areas.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, a typical 64-year-old making $26,500 would have a net premium of $14,600 in 2026 under the Republican plan, compared to $1,700 under “Obamacare.” A 21-year-old making the same amount would pay slightly less than under “Obamacare” and a similar 40-year-old would pay slightly more.

Among people making $68,200, all three age groups would benefit under the GOP plan. The two younger groups would pay roughly three times less and the 64-year-old would pay slightly less.

Meanwhile, it’s not clear how many of the 242,000 people in Wisconsin who buy federally subsidized private insurance through the “Obamacare” marketplace would lose coverage under the Republican plan.

Democratic staff members of the Joint Economic Committee in Congress released a 50-state study of the bill last week that determined more than 129,000 people in Wisconsin would lose their health insurance next year — purchased either through their employer or the private marketplace — under the GOP overhaul.

The liberal Center for American Progress estimated that more than 894,000 people in Wisconsin will lose insurance by 2026 under the bill.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Linda Seemeyer said Tuesday at a forum hosted by Wisconsin Health News that estimating how many people may lose insurance under the GOP plan was “not my bailiwick.”

Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s administration is working on an analysis, DHS spokeswoman Julie Lund said.

The Congressional Budget Office said the measure would strip coverage from 24 million people in a decade, but it did not break out numbers by state.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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