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AARP: GOP Health Plan Won't Work for Arizonans Over 50

AARP predicts changes to Medicaid under the proposed American Health Care Act would force older Arizonans into nursing homes sooner than necessary. (Pixabay)
AARP predicts changes to Medicaid under the proposed American Health Care Act would force older Arizonans into nursing homes sooner than necessary. (Pixabay)
March 13, 2017

PHOENIX – Arizona may hold a precarious place in the new health care system proposed by House Republicans.

The reasons are the state's aging population and higher than average insurance costs, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The foundations says for most Arizonans, the tax credits they use to help pay for coverage will shrink.

Dana Marie Kennedy, state director for AARP Arizona, says the GOP plan lets insurance companies raise premiums by thousands of dollars per year for people ages 50 and older.

"Why this hits Arizona so much higher is because we don't have state laws in place that would prevent that huge price spike,” she explains, “where other states, they actually wouldn't allow the insurance companies to increase somebody's rate based on their age."

House Republicans say their plan will lower costs by attracting more health insurance companies to sell policies in more states, which would increase competition and give consumers more choice.

Despite criticism from both major parties, the draft version of the American Health Care Act managed to make it through two House committees last week.

AARP also opposes the GOP plan because of what it does to Medicaid. Starting in 2020, the plan caps how much the federal government spends on Medicaid, passing more costs onto the states.

Kennedy says that will hurt Arizona seniors who depend on Medicaid for nursing home care. She says the state's long term care system, known as ALTC, is successful because it tries to keep seniors in their homes as long as possible.

"The ALTC system here in Arizona is considered the gold seal for long term care because it delays nursing homes,” she points out. “We don't even have enough nursing homes, if we were to go to the block grant system."

A block grant is a fixed amount that each state can decide on its own how to spend.

Kennedy says the current Arizona program saves money because keeping seniors in their own homes is far less expensive than a nursing home.

She adds instead of giving tax breaks to drug makers and insurance companies, AARP thinks the plan should spend more on better and more affordable coverage.


Dennis Newman, Public News Service - AZ