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In focus on our Friday Rundown; the U.S. Senate takes a first step towards passing major tax cuts; holiday help wanted as retail and restaurant job opportunities abound; plus, we report on a website that helps new moms take 12 from work.

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AARP Vows Continued Fight against GOP Health-Care Plan

Advocacy groups are convinced the health of older Illinoisans would be at risk under the American Health Care Act. (aarp.org)
Advocacy groups are convinced the health of older Illinoisans would be at risk under the American Health Care Act. (aarp.org)
March 15, 2017

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – AARP has joined the chorus of groups that say the American Health Care Act won't work for their members. The legislation could see a vote in the U.S. House as soon as next week.

Courtney Hedderman, associate state director of AARP Illinois, says it raises premiums and weakens Medicare, along with increasing deductibles and co-pays. She says older Americans already spend about 20 percent of their income on healthcare, and this plan would raise out-of-pocket costs so much, they might not be able to afford other necessities.

Hedderman points out that most older Illinoisans have worked hard their entire lives.

"It is an extraordinary moment for a person to be able to retire and be able to do something else, or nothing at all, if that's what they choose," she said. "And then, they get into a situation where they can't afford other things because they have to worry about their health care."

Republicans call it commonsense reform that makes health care more affordable and reduces the number of uninsured Americans, while at the same time increasing quality. But this week's Congressional Budget Office report says as many as 24 million Americans could lose health insurance, and that Medicaid would be drastically cut, affecting older and lower-income people the most.

Hedderman points out that huge medical bills are the cause of many bankruptcies in the U.S. She says AARP is convinced this proposal could increase those numbers, and is urging people - regardless of their political affiliation - to find out more about how the plan would affect them.

She says that's what her group is doing.

"Beat that drum consistently, and sharing our thoughts to our elected officials," she added. "And hopefully there's a proposal that can have our health-care system work better, but certainly not on the backs of seniors. They can't afford any more."

House Republicans who support the new plan say it makes the Tax Code more fair by giving tax credits to people who don't have health insurance through their employers, to help them pay for it on their own. But Hedderman says it gives bigger tax breaks to businesses and the pharmaceutical industry, and does nothing to address the skyrocketing cost of medications.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL