(WVUE) - On the eve of a planned U.S. House vote on GOP legislation that would replace the Affordable Care Act, some older Americans are worried whether they could take a big hit to their wallets.
"I think it's an unfair burden to place on that age group. I, myself, collect disability and had to retire slightly early from teaching," said Robin Ziebert, who spoke to FOX 8 News as she walked her dog in City Park. "And already I'm paying several thousand a year just in monthly payments and deductibles. If they do the kinds of things they're proposing, they will be asking me to put up between two and four months' worth of my salary towards health care, and I do quite well as a retired teacher, and I can only imagine what would happen to someone who doesn't have a pension."
AARP has come out against the Republicans' legislation, which even is under attack by some GOP members of Congress.
"It increases the costs and the risks for older Americans, so it gives big tax breaks to big drug and health insurance companies while allowing those insurance companies to overcharge older Americans, the group we're talking about, by thousands of dollars per year," said AARP Louisiana State Director Denise Bottcher, who said the group has have myriad concerns. "It puts an age tax on older Americans and hikes up their premiums, which together would roughly cost them about $8,400 per year for the same coverage that they're paying for now."
Dr. Walter Lane is a UNO health care economics expert.
"The premium help that came in Obamacare that's now being substituted by these tax credits is less than it was before. It's adjusted up for age, but still not enough, so the seniors end up getting two hits - their premiums are going to go up, and their support is going down," Lane said.
The Kaiser Family Foundation, which researches health policies, has an interactive measure that shows a 60-year-old living in Orleans Parish who earns $50,000 a year and purchased insurance through the ACA marketplace paid a premium of $5,100 after a $6,100 ACA tax credit. It also showed that under the proposed law, the premium paid after the tax credit would be $11, 050, and the amount of the tax credit would fall to $4,000.
"The premiums under Obamacare are tied to income. The tax credits under the Republican plan are tied to age. And so if you are a lower-wage worker at 50 years old, you were getting a lot of help from Obama. You're not going to get that from Ryan's plan, and so those people are going to be hurt. The higher income people might actually come out a little ahead," Lane said.
"We're looking at those without subsidies. About 35,000 people would pay the full increase if the AHCA were in effect. Those with subsidies, which is about 29,000, would pay some portion of that increase, so you're looking at 35,000 people in Louisiana from the age of 50 to 64 years old who would pay more than $8,400 a year for the same coverage they're receiving now on the individual market," said Bottcher.
Dr. Lane said the current federal law has a provision that benefits hospitals, but now the industry is watching nervously as the new legislation is put to a vote.
"The deal that put Obamacare together from the hospitals' perspective was they made huge cuts to Medicare payments to the hospitals in exchange for covering all these extra people. Well the Republican plan is now taking away coverage from those extra people, but they're not restoring the cuts to Medicare, so hospitals are going to be hit very hard by this."
AARP also has concerns about the long-term future of Medicare.
"It also really shortens the life of Medicare, leaving the door open to benefit cuts, where people then pay more for their coverage and shifts costs more onto seniors," said Bottcher.