Truth Test: The AARP's claims against the Republican healthcare plan

Senate Republicans delaying their health care bill vote means that the groups advertising against it can tweak and ramp up their ads. Politics guy Brandon Rittiman gives the AARP's the Truth Test treatment.

DENVER - AARP still wants Coloradans to call U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) and urge him to vote against the Republican healthcare plan.

To convince you of its position, the advocacy group has a new television ad featuring a family sitting down to dinner. It claims that family could lose their health insurance or see their premiums and prescription drug costs rise.

We’re going test the veracity of those claims, but it’s important to point out that the current draft could change in the Senate. And it could change again if the U.S. House of Representatives decides not to accept the Senate version.

CLAIM: “You'll spend even more on premiums.”
VERDICT: Depends

The level of truth in this claims depends on where you get insurance and what your age and income are.

The Senate healthcare bill would change premiums for the individual market – people who buy insurance on their own – not the plans you get from an employer. 

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that a previous version of the bill would cause premiums for those people to rise in the coming years and then fall long-term.

The CBO hasn’t released its score for the current version.

The reason for the long-term fall in premium prices is that plans wouldn’t have to cover as many things as they do under the Affordable Care Act. States could ask for waivers to sell plans that don’t include coverage for things like maternity care and hospital stays.

The CBO estimated that would make plans cheaper when you’re young and more expensive when you’re old.

For example, a single 21-year-old making almost $57,000 a year would see a $1,000 drop in his or her premium by 2026.

But a 64-year-old with the same annual income would pay $13,700 more in premiums.

CLAIM: “[You'll] pay more for prescriptions."
VERDICT: Iffy

The Senate health care bill makes little mention of prescription drug coverage aside from a proposal to eliminate a tax on the import of brand name drugs.

That sounds like it could lower the price of certain prescription drugs.

AARP says the reason people might pay more for medications is because states would be allowed to let insurers sell plans without what today’ law considers to be essential health benefits.

These are things like prescription drug coverage, mental health services and hospital stays.

An amendment proposed by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) would make it even easier for states to opt out of the Obamacare coverage requirements. It says that as long as states offer one plan that has all the essential benefits none of the other plans to have include them.

Under both scenarios a state could apply for a waiver, causing the price of a plan that covers medications to cost more than you can afford. But this ad is pretending that will happen for sure. 

CLAIM: "Your family's coverage could be taken away altogether."
VERDICT: Depends

This claim also depends on the kind of coverage you have—the admakers are specifically talking about proposed changes to Medicaid.

The way Medicaid works now is as a partnership between the states and the federal government. Each side pays an agreed upon percentage of a person’s medical bills, but there’s no limit or cap on how much that is.

The Republican plan would limit how much money the federal government would spend per person, leaving states to either cut coverage or find the money in their own budgets.

It also gradually reduces the money the federal government gives the 31 states that expanded Medicaid because of the Affordable Care Act.

The Obama administration paid for 90 percent of the costs of new enrollees. Republican proposed slowly cutting that back to about 57 percent.

This would save the federal government about $772 billion between now and 2026, but it would also bump about 11.9 million people off Medicaid, according to the CBO report.

Whether your family might have coverage “taken away” depends on whether you’re on Medicaid to begin with, and how your state decides to deal with any proposed federal cuts.

BOTTOM LINE:

The ad blurs the lines between different types of coverage.

It tells different horror stories about the individual market and Medicaid without explaining that those issues apply to different groups of people.

And much like we saw in ads against Obamacare, the ad cherry picks the worst-case-scenarios to paint the grimmest picture it can.

The truth isn't as simple in this complicated bill, which again, is likely to change before any deal would get done.

© 2017 KUSA-TV


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