With our combined ages, we’ve lived 138 years on this planet. We’ve witnessed huge progress — a moon landing, the invention of the cell phone and medical advances beyond our wildest imagination. And yet, our lawmakers can’t work together to improve access to affordable and adequate health coverage in America and are, instead, considering proposals that could price people out of system.
Current law protects patients and supports Louisiana’s health care system. Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010 and the expansion of Medicaid in our state in 2016, Louisiana has enjoyed historically low rates of uninsured. It’s true that current law needs improvements, but the ideas currently under consideration by Congress are flawed and could result in millions of people losing access to health coverage.
It’s easy to think you won’t be affected by these potential changes but that may not be the case. If you are one of the estimated 849,000 Louisianans (393,000 who are between the ages of 50-64) with a preexisting condition, 210,000 of which are cancer survivors, and lose your health coverage, a plan you purchase in the future may not be required to offer the treatments and services you need at a cost you can afford. What if you are one of the 24,000 residents who are expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year?
Those on Medicaid could be affected, also. In our state, more than 31,500 adults and 1,000 kids with a history of cancer rely on Medicaid for their health coverage. Many of those who are newly insured could be at risk of losing their coverage under the proposed health care bills. In addition, 217,000 low-income Medicare beneficiaries in Louisiana were also covered by Medicaid to help them access benefits such as long-term services and supports.
The new law could also have a disproportionate impact on older Americans , by imposing an “age tax” and allowing insurance companies to charge them 5 times more than younger Americans and reducing or eliminating the tax credits they can receive. That means people between the ages of 50 and 64 who are buying health insurance on their own might have to pay up to $10,000 more per year than they do now.
In a recent poll of nearly 1,100 voters across the nation, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) asked a series of questions about their feelings on proposed changes to critical patient protections in the health care law. The survey found 89 percent oppose raising health insurance premiums for older Americans. More than 8 in 10 (81 percent) say they would oppose the Senate bill if it cuts $834 billion from Medicaid over the next 10 years and 71 percent oppose moving to lump sum or per capita cap payments for the program when they find out increased funding wouldn’t be available to deal with the real-time needs of state residents.
As volunteers with AARP Louisiana and ACS CAN, we appreciate U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy’s contributions to the health care debate. Given how harmful the proposed Senate bill could be to older adults, cancer patients and their families, we urge him to vote no on any attempt to move that legislation forward. Stand up for patients and send it back to the drawing board. Louisianans and patients everywhere are counting on his voice in this process.
If we can send a man to the moon, surely this country can ensure older Americans, cancer patients, survivors and those at risk of getting cancer have quality, affordable and available health coverage.
Bobby Savoie is Louisiana state president of AARP. Amber Stevens is lead ambassador, ACS Cancer Action Network.
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