New Ringgold, Pa. — Among the groups hardest hit by the Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act is one that swung for Donald Trump during last year’s presidential race — older Americans who have not yet reached Medicare age.
Many of those who buy their own health insurance stand to pay a lot more for their coverage. That is especially true for the nearly 3.4 million older Americans who have enrolled through the government marketplaces, many of whom receive generous federal subsidies through the health care law enacted under former President Barack Obama.
Health care experts predict those older adults will end up buying skimpier plans with lower coverage and higher deductibles because that’s all they will be able to afford. The Republican plan replaces the subsidies in the Affordable Care Act, which mostly benefit low- and middle-income earners, with a flat tax credit that does not take into account income or local insurance prices.
Based on the current plan, an Associated Press analysis of data from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows older consumers, defined as those age 55 and older, would be disproportionately affected. They could lose thousands of dollars per year in government subsidies for health insurance.
The AP analysis also found that on average, the counties with the strongest Trump support will see costs for older enrollees rise 50 percent more than the counties that had the least amount of support for Trump.
“A lot of people just won’t be able to afford to pay it. A lot of people are going to drop out of the market altogether,” said Kaiser’s Cynthia Cox.
That includes older voters who helped put Trump into office.
In Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, an economically struggling former coal-mining center, the New York billionaire won 70 percent of the vote in November.
About 40 percent of Schuylkill County’s Affordable Care Act enrollees are 55 or older, more than 10 points higher than the national average. A 60-year-old making $30,000 annually here will pay roughly $8,750 more per year for coverage under the Republican plan moving through Congress, according to the AP analysis.
“When it comes to food or insurance, it’s going to be an easy choice,” said Matt Strauss, a health insurance broker in New Ringgold, some of whose customers voted for Trump.
Anna Holloway of Norman, Oklahoma, who takes daily medication for an auto-immune disease, said she is fearful the GOP plan will price her out of the market for health insurance.
“I am conscious of just how desperate this is,” said Holloway, 60, fighting back tears. “I try not to let myself feel this way, but to live this way with real terror, real fear that the universe is going to fall apart around me.”
She takes home about $1,150 per month working four part-time jobs. That’s only $250 more than the monthly premium for a health care plan that includes Holloway and her 23-year-old daughter. Without the government subsidy that makes the policy affordable, she would have to drop it.
The Kaiser analysis estimates a family plan in Norman under the current Republican proposal would cost as much as $20,000 more for someone in Holloway’s income and age bracket.
“I’d go without health care. I would get sicker, and that would make it more difficult to work. I would eventually have to stop working,” said Holloway, a registered Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton.
The Affordable Care Act didn’t work for Wendy Kline, a hairstylist in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, who voted for Donald Trump.
Kline tried buying a policy on the federal exchange but found she made a little too much money to qualify for a government subsidy. So she was stuck paying the market rate.
Her policy jumped this year from $630 to $929 a month. As a result, the 61-year-old isn’t able to save much for retirement.
“I try to put as much away as I can, but my health insurance is $30 less than my mortgage payment,” said Kline, who works two jobs.
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