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The Republican AHCA health care plan punishes Americans over age 50

Most senior US citizens will not fare well under the Republican Party American Health Care Act (AHCA), which passed the US House.

As a statement of political ignorance and callousness, the GOP’s effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, will mean the amount you need to save for retirement just got higher.

“Americans face two big problems as they get older: a shortage of retirement savings and the skyrocketing cost of health care,” wrote Ben Steverman for Bloomberg in “Washington is making it tougher to retire.”

Sure, there are a couple winners under AHCA: 

1. Not surprisingly (under a Republican plan), wealthy individuals win. And the wealthy pay less taxes and the middle class will pay more for health insurance premiums.  

2. The healthiest of young adults and upper middle-income folks without any preexisting conditions also benefit.

Here’s who will lose:

• Seniors who rely on Medicaid. A change in how the program is funded, which will cap Medicaid outlays, would leave a lot of poor elderly folks without health care.

A state like Florida, which has a large senior population, could see costs rise fast as its population ages with time. But a per capita cap wouldn’t keep up with that. To get around that, the state might be motivated to kick off older seniors and focus enrollment on younger ones.”

In most states, older Americans will pay more. Insurance companies could charge a 64-year-old customer five times the price charged to an 18-year-old one, to cite the most extreme example. The changes in the subsidy formula would also require older middle-class Americans to pay a much larger share of their health insurance bill. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that far fewer older Americans would have insurance coverage under this bill than under the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare).

Got a preexisting condition? You loseBefore there was Obamacare, insurance companies routinely refused coverage for people with preexisting conditions such diabetes, arthritis or heart disease. Or, if people could get coverage, they were charged very high premiums, copays and deductibles.

Companies argued it was the only way to prevent people from waiting to buy insurance until they were already sick. Some supporters of the AHCA say it’s about personal responsibility. After all, why should all the customers of a health insurance plan pay for people who wait until they are sick or injured to buy coverage?

But medical groups from the American Medical Association to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) say the health insurers often make up their own definitions of preexisting conditions. And they often denied coverage to people born with such conditions, or who developed them in childhood.

AARP et al says NO Way! to the AHCA

The senior advocacy group AARP is deeply disappointed in House’s deeply flawed health bill. AARP’s Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond said in a press release.

“The bill will put an Age Tax on us as we age, harming millions of American families with health insurance, forcing many to lose coverage or pay thousands of dollars more for health care. In addition, the bill now puts at risk the 25 million older adults with preexisting conditions, such as cancer and diabetes, who would likely find health care unaffordable or unavailable to them.”

And don't rely on Republican political rhetoric or on the spin coming from Fox News. For example:

• Rolling back protections for people with preexisting conditions will probably see an increase health-care costs for an estimated 130 million Americans.

• Proportionally, the group of people that would see the most coverage losses under the AHCA is the population of people aged 50 and older. Although they’re more likely to have coverage in the first place, owing to more stable employment and a higher likelihood of public-insurance coverage such as Medicare, estimates show the uninsured rate of people over 50 would skyrocket from around 13 percent currently to just under 30 percent by 2026.

Contact your US Senator and tell them NO AHCA!

Fortunately, this bogus health care bill still isn’t a done deal. The House "plan" now goes to the US Senate.

“There are many other problems with this bill from both a liberal and conservative perspective,” wrote Jake Novak for CNBC. “It simply does not fix the problems with Obamacare and actually makes them worse by increasing its fiscal liabilities and the cost of coverage for middle class and poor American citizens.”

Finally, if you have health insurance and think all this reworking of Obamacare isn’t your problem, think again.

Michelle Singletary, Bloomberg News, May 8 

In America, Healthy Eating Is Mainly For Those Who Can Afford It

Although kale salad is making its way to some family dinners, the fact remains that eating healthy is often thought of as something for the rich to entertain, and for the bottom rung to struggle with. According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, authors give credence to this gap, finding that the rich are eating healthier and the poor are still eating worse.

Using a survey from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the authors charted the eating habits of American diets from roughly 29,124 adults from 1999 to 2010. They indexed the habits using the Harvard School of Public Health’s Alternate Eating Index, which, while monitoring healthy eating habits, is also used to predict chronic diseases in the U.S. population.

If an individual scored higher on the index, it indicates they eat healthier food items such as fruits (not including juice), vegetables (not including starches like potatoes) and whole grains. A lower score entails the opposite, where the individual most likely eats foods high in fat, sugar and sodium.

What they found was that scores for low-income adults were lower than the average but also their numbers did not increase in the past 12 years. Compare this to high-income adults whose scores increased more than six points from 2009 to 2010.

On the bright side, and not accounting for socioeconomic status, we’re drinking less sugary drinks and fruit juices. We’re also eating more fruits and whole grains, nuts legumes and polyunsaturated fats. On the down side, we’re not eating enough vegetables, we’ve increased our sodium intake and still haven’t made a significant dent in eating any less red or processed meats.

“The good news is that the overall quality of the U.S. diet has been increasing in the past decade,” Frank Hu, one of the study’s authors, told The Atlantic. He also said the gap was “disturbing” and graded the U.S. diet in the B- range.

Today more than one-third of adults and 17 percent of youth are obese, according to the CDC. Recently, a new report found that obesity rates rose in six states in 2013, which is actually somewhat good news considering in 2005 every state increased their obesity rates. The ubiquity of processed foods in America makes eating healthy foods, to say the least, nearly impossible.

The authors believe much of the healthy-eating gap could be explained by price, which is obviously a big concern when choosing what to eat, especially when real median incomes have remained the same since 1989. As Tom Philpott points out in Mother Jones, according to the USDA, “food-secure households spent 30 percent more on food than their food-insecure peers in 2013, and that includes expenditures from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).”

On top of this, the study authors add that healthy foods generally cost more than unhealthy ones and that access to healthful foods also widens the gap — many low-income residents do not own a car to reach supermarkets with better, healthier foods. Lastly, education plays a big role as the dietary quality “was lowest and improved slowly in participants who had completed no more than 12 years of education, whereas dietary quality in participant who had completed college was consistently high and improved exponentially.”

As the authors write it’s “imperative for sustainable dietary quality improvement” especially for those whose socioeconomic status places them in the bottom levels of income, adding: “Collective actions, such as legislation, that aim toward creating an environment that fosters and supports individuals’ healthful choices are more effective at reducing dietary risk factors than actions that solely depend on personal responsibility, such as consumers’ individual voluntary behavior change.”

Clarissa A. Leon, September 15, 2014; AlterNet 

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