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Seeing AHCA as ‘threat,’ senior advocates unite to fight health care plan

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Dozens of people gathered outside the West Nashville home of Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., early Tuesday evening to protest Republican health care proposals.
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Advocacy groups for older Tennesseans are joining forces to oppose the health care reform plan, which as currently written disproportionately impacts seniors.

More than a dozen groups began talking in early December about how to band together to establish an amplified voice for the state’s older residents. They planned to launch this summer but decided to fast track those plans because it felt like time was slipping by as federal lawmakers take up an Affordable Care Act repeal bill that threatens to hit the pocketbooks of seniors across the state. 

“The AHCA and threats to Medicaid quickly galvanized us, as we knew we had to do something,” said Tom Starling, who will be the chairman of the coalition for the first couple of years. “We couldn’t just wait around when such a threat was pending.”

More: Older Tennesseans fret over future under Obamacare reform

More: Health care fight clouds future of access to coverage

The Tennessee Coalition for Better Aging met several times in April to approve its mission and get started on a letter to the state’s Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker. 

The U.S. Senate is diving into the American Health Care Act that narrowly passed the U.S. House and as written would raise premiums for millions of seniors across the country, including in Tennessee.

A 64-year-old making $26,500 a year could expect to see premiums jump from $1,700 to $16,000 annually under the AHCA. The proposal allows insurers to charge older adults five times more than younger people and reworks the tax credit to a flat amount that does not take into account income or local premiums. 

The coalition writes that the AHCA “will cause serious harm to older adults.” The amended bill is projected to uninsure 23 million people by 2026 and cut more than $800 billion from Medicaid, according to a study from the Congressional Budget Office released this week.

The federal proposal would “renege on the federal government’s 50-year-old commitment” to Medicaid and instituting caps on future funding “will perpetuate unfair disparities in federal funding,” the coalition wrote to the senators. 

More: Patient care doesn’t keep Tennessee’s hospitals in the black

Rural seniors would be particularly negatively impacted if cash-strapped local hospitals lost more funding due to Medicaid cuts, the letter noted. Hospitals around the state struggle to make ends meet from patient care alone, and Medicaid funding is frequently not enough to cover the services rendered. 

The Tennessee Coalition for Better Aging is focusing on the senators for its first communication “because of their influence and their current work to construct something meaningful,” said Starling, the president and CEO of Mental Health America of Middle Tennessee.

Reach Holly Fletcher at hfletcher@tennessean.com or 615-259-8287 and on Twitter @hollyfletcher.


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Article source: http://www.tennessean.com/story/money/industries/health-care/2017/05/26/seeing-ahca-threat-senior-advocates-unite-fight-health-care-plan/350185001/

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