Sen. King, AARP highlight devastating effect of health care repeal on older Mainers

The health care repeal bill passed in the House with the support of Maine Second-District Congressman Bruce Poliquin would be devastating for older Mainers, especially in rural areas. At the Bangor Public Library on Monday, Senator Angus King and AARP Maine hosted a roundtable discussion on what the law would mean for Maine and what can be done to stop it.

The discussion focused in particular on the impact of a provision of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) that the AARP has dubbed the age tax, which would allow insurance companies to charge Americans ages 50 to 64 up to five times more than they charge others.

“As we heard today, this bill is going to dramatically increase health care costs for older people in rural Maine, which means many of them will no longer be able to afford insurance and have to risk going without it,” said King. “I don’t think that’s right, and I am going to continue fighting in the Senate for these folks and urge my colleagues to make meaningful improvements to the Affordable Care Act rather than abandoning it altogether – because if we abandon the ACA, then we abandoning good people across Maine.”

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a 60-year old in Aroostook County with a $30,000 per year income would lose approximately 70 percent of the federal support for their health insurance plan under the AHCA, which would sharply increase the costs that person pays out of pocket for health insurance. Kaiser also estimates that that support would fall by nearly 50 percent across the rest of the state.

For a 60-year old making $30,000 a year (KFF)
Maine County Percent Reduction in Federal Support
York 48
Cumberland 48
Sagadahoc 48
Lincoln 52
Knox 52
Oxford 52
Kennebec 52
Franklin 55
Waldo 55
Androscoggin 55
Somerset 59
Penobscot 59
Piscataquis 59
Hancock 70
Washington 70
Aroostook 70

During the conversation in Bangor, Jennifer Schroth, 56, of Blue Hill noted that her family – including her two young adult sons – were never able to afford health insurance before the Affordable Care Act. Jennifer and her husband are organic farmers in Brooklin, Maine, and are now concerned that the AHCA will once again put health care out of reach for their family.

For Victoria Watkins of Old Town, who relies on Medicaid and Medicare to deal with a chronic condition that has left her with a severe disability, any cuts to federal health care programs would be devastating.

“If I did have to pay a copay for anything, I would be in serious trouble. I mean, even three dollars. I have twenty-nine meds on my list, so you can imagine,” said Watkins

Participants also discussed the importance of the Affordable Care Act and coverage through Medicaid in dealing with Maine’s ongoing opioid abuse and addiction crisis, which King noted was killing an average of one Mainer every day.

The bill has passed the House and will now be considered by the Senate. King has previously called the AHCA “the most ill-conceived, damaging, and downright cruel piece of legislation” he has ever seen.

Watch the entire conversation:

Photo via AARP Maine.

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