The Republican Health Care Plan Is a Disaster For Their Most Reliable Voters

When Obamacare passed, one of the provisions that we heard the most about was the fact that young people could stay on their parent’s health insurance plan until they were 26. That provided a bridge for many of them to possible employer-provided insurance. And as Republicans look to gut Obamacare, it is one of the regulations that is likely to be continued.

What was less well-covered was the fact that Obamacare also provided a bridge for older Americans into Medicare. For those who didn’t have employer-provided coverage, premiums for someone in the 50-65 age range were somewhere in the range of $10,000 a year – hardly affordable for most people. Add to that the possibility of a pre-existing condition which precluded a lot of plans and it was not uncommon for people to go without insurance and simply hope (or pray) that they could avoid catastrophe until they became eligible for Medicare.

Medicaid expansion the subsidies on the exchanges were not only a godsend to people in this age group with no insurance. They allowed many to leave jobs they’d been chained to simply because of the employer-provided health insurance to pursue either early retirement of a career that could take them through semi-retirement.

This is the group that would be most impacted by the Republican plan to repeal/replace Obamacare. The Kaiser Family Foundation has put together a helpful tool to determine how subsidies/tax credits will affect different age groups at various income levels. Here’s what it looks like for someone who is 60 years old making $30,000 a year.

The vast majority of people in this category would see their subsidies/tax credits reduced by over 50% – making health care virtually unaffordable for most of them.

This is one of the main drivers for the AARP’s opposition to the Republican plan. Here is some of what they wrote about that in their letter to Congress.

About 6.1 million older Americans age 50-64 currently purchase insurance in the non- group market, and nearly 3.2 million are currently eligible to receive subsidies for health insurance coverage through either the federal health benefits exchange or a state- based exchange (exchange). We have seen a significant reduction in the number of uninsured since passage of the ACA, with the number of 50-64 year old Americans who are uninsured dropping by half…

We have serious concerns that the bill under consideration will dramatically increase health care costs for 50-64 year olds who purchase health care through an exchange due both to the changes in age rating from 3:1 (already a compromise that requires uninsured older Americans to pay three times more than younger individuals) to 5:1 and reductions in current subsidies for older Americans.

Here is why that is significant. Exit polls indicate that 50-64 year-olds were the largest portion of the electorate in 2015 (30%) and that Trump won this age group by 8 points (52-44). Since race was a significant factor in this election, it is also important to note that Trump won white voters in this age group by 28 points (62-34). Anyone who watched the outbreak of blowback to Republicans at town hall meetings over Obamacare in recent weeks probably noticed that it came predominantly from older white Americans in their districts/states.

One of the people who faced a contentious crowd about this was Sen. Tom Cotton – who has been a major supporter of Trump on almost every issue. Perhaps that’s why he tweeted this today.

It could be that he is part of the crowd that sees the tax credits as simply another government entitlement program and wants to get rid of them altogether. But the fact that he didn’t mention his specific objections indicates that perhaps he knows this plan is a disaster for the very people Republicans rely on for votes.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.