For many older Americans, costs rise under GOP health plan

NEW RINGGOLD, Pa. (AP) — 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 insurances prices.

On top of that, the GOP plan allows insurers to charge older people five times what they charge younger customers, compared to three times under Obama's health care law.

The Republican plan is still evolving, and many GOP lawmakers have said they want to see changes that reduce the impact on older consumers before they can support it.

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.

Take Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, an economically struggling former coal-mining center where 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.