Seniors fear rising health costs if ACA is repealed

Sandra Clark

When the sloganeering Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th president of the United States on Jan. 20, his supporters will expect three things:

  • Drain the swamp;
  • Build a wall, and
  • Repeal and replace Obamacare.

That third goal is a sticky wicket, complicated by Trump’s insistence on the word “replace.”

Repealing Obamacare is a straight up/down vote. The House of Representatives voted to do it 50 or 60 times (depending on who’s counting). Sen. Ted Cruz introduced a bill to repeal it outright. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promises, “The Obamacare repeal resolution will be the first item up in the New Year.”

But not all senators see a simple solution, even the Republicans.

Sen. Lamar Alexander said full repeal and replacement could take years. And Sen. Bob Corker doesn’t like the idea of a quick repeal with deferred implementation while the replacement is hammered out. “It might make sense to repeal and replace at the same time. It’s not really repeal if it’s still in place for three years,” he said Dec. 6 after a meeting with Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Into the fray comes Gloria Johnson, former state representative and Obama organizer. She convened a meeting of seniors last Thursday at the Time Warp Tea Room.

“Repeal of the Affordable Care Act will create chaos, raise costs and limit protections for seniors,” Johnson wrote in the invitation.

Mary Linda Schwarzbart said, “Thanks to the ACA, we paid 11 percent less in 2014 than 2013 for our Medicare premiums and saved almost $900 on prescription costs.” In 2013, Schwarzbart fell into the so-called doughnut hole in early June.

Linda Haney of Halls said she and husband Dan saved $3,000 in 2016 and expect to save $2,000 this year. With the ACA, they pay $700 of the cost of Dan’s insulin; without the ACA, they would be required to pay almost $1,700.

Richard Henighan, a family nurse practitioner from Sevier County, said, “If you are in the doughnut hole now, you are paying only 45 percent for brand-name drugs. If we repeal the ACA, we are looking at paying 100 percent for that same drug.”

Johnson added: “55 million Americans are covered by Medicare. Enrollees have benefited from lower costs for prescription drugs; free preventive services including cancer screenings; fewer hospital mistakes and more coordinated care.”

Will “repeal and replace” become law during Trump’s first 100 days? During his first term? And then what? That still leaves the wall building and swamp draining. We live in interesting times.

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