Payday loans: Make ’em bigger in Florida? Senior group says no

For those who think the problem with payday loans is too many government restrictions, bills in the state legislature aim to please by doubling to $1,000 the amount that can be loaned at a time.

Folks who call such products “predatory” might be more inclined to cheer on a senior advocacy group that plans to raise a fuss online today.

“Some borrowers end up in a ‘debt trap’ and lose everything, even their homes,” said AARP Florida state director Jeff Johnson in an email to members. “In fact, payday lenders have already stripped more than $2.5 billion dollars in fees from Floridians since 2005, with more than $311 million collected last year alone. Wealth stripping affects us all and negatively affects our communities.”

The fees can quickly amount to an annual interest rate of more than 200 percent, far higher than anything generally found with homes, cars or credit cards. The borrowers are typically lower-income folks, including a number of seniors, who can get mired in a series of loans to pay off mounting costs, AARP says.

Johnson urged members to contact legislators to oppose HB 857 and join a Facebook Live event 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 5, at www.facebook.com/AARPFL.

Payday lenders make a different case.

“Millions of American consumers use small-dollar loans to manage budget shortfalls or unexpected expenses,” Dennis Shaul, CEO of the Community Financial Services Association of America, has put it.  Tight regulation will “only serve to cut off their access to vital credit when they need it the most,” he said.

Nationally, payday loans often run between $200 and $1,000, due when a borrower receives the next paycheck. They have been capped at $500 at a time in Florida.

Generous political contributions seem  to be paying off for payday lenders. They gave more than $62,000 in campaign contributions to Trump administration budget director and interim Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chief Mick Mulvaney when he was a congressman, according to gift-tracker opensecrets.org.

Mulvaney suspended tougher federal rules about to go into effect, placing them under review in January.  Legislative efforts at the state level, launched partly in anticipation of tighter U.S. regulations, have continued anyway in Florida.

“The fact that payday lenders are trying to evade a consumer protection rule that may not even go into effect is really beyond the pale,” said Alice Vickers, director of the Florida Alliance for Consumer Protection, which opposes the bill.

The Senate version, SB 920, is sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island. He said the industry offers a valuable source of credit to 1.2 million Floridians and if regulations get it wrong, it could mean “10,000 jobs threatened.”

Though there are some circumstances in which consumers could pay less compared to current law, the bill would let lenders in other cases roughly double their fees per $1,000 borrowed, from $110 to $214.68, according to a Senate staff analysis.

Update: An industry executive told The Palm Beach Post on Monday that new rules are necessary to update for inflation a $500 limit that has been in place for 17 years. Another reason: to keep the loans viable in Florida under federal regulations  that have been put on hold in the Trump administration, but have not been formally ruled in or out.

“One million people in Florida use this product every year,”  said Ian A. MacKechnie, executive vice chairman of Amscot Financial Inc. “The safe thing is assuming the (federal) regulation is going to be effective.”

MacKechnie characterized reports of harm to borrowers as overblown and said default rates are only about 1.8 percent in Florida.

 

 

 

 

Tax cuts: Why 600,000 in Florida risk paying more, not less, AARP says

More than 600,000 Floridians who deduct medical expenses on their taxes risk taking a nasty shot in the wallet, senior advocates say  — depending on what happens in a House-Senate conference committee that meets Wednesday to nail down a final bill on tax cuts.

Stephen Burns

It is one piece in a giant jigsaw puzzle advertised as more than $1 trillion in tax relief for companies and people, but folks like Stephen Burns figure it could actually raise their taxes by thousands of dollars a year.

Burns, 72, a retired psychiatrist who lives in Naples, said in an AARP conference call he estimates he would have owed about $1,400 more in taxes on a retirement income of about $37,000 in 2016 without being able to deduct medical costs. They added up to more than $12,000 for medicines and other expenses for himself and his wife, he said.

“It means a great deal,” he said.

Some lawmakers think a deal can be reached by week’s end, with a final version approved by both chambers as early as next week. Crunch time has arrived for details like this one.

The House version eliminates several itemized deductions including medical expenses while increasing the standard deduction. Sponsors emphasized the big picture, defending the package on the House Ways and Means website by saying it means “a typical family of four earning $59,000 (the median household income) will receive a $1,182 tax cut.”

“Our bill lowers the tax rates and increases the standard deduction so people can immediately keep more of their paychecks – instead of having to rely on a myriad of provisions that many will never use and others may use only once in their lifetime,” a Q&A from House sponsors says. “This tax relief will give families the flexibility to use their paychecks for what matters most to them every year.”

But AARP says the House plan disproportionately hurts seniors, especially those who pay for things like costly medication or long-term care. About 70 percent of  the seniors who take the deduction make $75,000 or less per year, advocates say.

“If Congress imposes a health tax, millions of seniors would struggle to afford their medicine, and be forced to dip into their hard-earned retirement savings,” said AARP Florida State Director Jeff Johnson. “Older Floridians depend on the health tax deduction so they can afford to pay for their prescription drugs, doctors, hospitals, hearing aids and more.”

In 2014, more than 634,000 Floridians claimed the medical expense deduction, the group says.   Savings on tax bills averaged $1,500 to $2,500 a year among those in modest income brackets, officials said.

The Palm Beach Post requested a calculation of the likely “net effect” of the House bill on such seniors, factoring in elements like a higher standard deduction, and AARP officials said they were still working on that.

As of 2017, taxpayers who itemize can deduct qualified medical expenses exceeding 10 percent of their income.

The Senate bill preserves the medical deduction, even temporarily lowering the threshold to expenses exceeding 7.5 percent of income.

Any attempt to rewrite the tax code is likely to produce winners and losers, but the ouster of medical deductions hasn’t won unanimous support from taxpayer advocates.

“We definitely prefer the Senate version” on that issue, said Robert Romano, vice president of public policy for Fairfax, Va.-based Americans for Limited Government. The final bill “must include the medical deductions,” he said.

 

 

No Trumpcare cuts to Medicaid? AARP says this ‘cut really is a cut’

Counselor to President Donald Trump Kellyanne Conway says GOP health plans “are not cuts to Medicaid” but a slowing of growth, but an AARP analysis says “this cut really is a cut.”

Kellyanne Conway

An AARP  policy blog post says the Senate bill “will lead to major, harmful reductions in both federal and state Medicaid spending.”

The Congressional Budget Office says Medicaid spending under the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act would be 26 percent lower in 2026 than compared to keeping current law, and the gap would widen to about 35 percent in 2036.

Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted before the July 4 break that reporting on Medicaid “cuts”  is often misleading about states including Florida that did not expand Medicaid.  As long as the amount of federal money that goes to the state is “fair,” he said “no one currently on or eligible for Medicaid should lose coverage.”

The Senate is expected to resume work on the bill after the holiday break.

But groups already getting care from Medicaid in Florida stand to lose under a plan that caps federal Medicaid spending with a formula pegged initially to medical inflation and later general inflation, AARP figures.

According to an analysis from the AARP Public Policy Institute, reductions in  projected Medicaid spending as a result of the per capita caps in the Senate bill could be as much as 41 percent in 2036 across all populations. This includes older adults, adults with disabilities, and non-disabled children under age 19.

Medicaid covers 4 million Floridians, including half the childbirths, 70 percent of seniors in nursing homes and 41 percent of Palm Beach County’s children.

In the long run, CBO said, “states would continue to need to arrive at more efficient methods for delivering services (to the extent feasible) and to decide whether to commit more of their own resources, cut payments to health care providers and health plans, eliminate optional services, restrict eligibility for enrollment, or adopt some combination of those approaches.”

NEW: Better? Senate health plan doubles many Palm Beach Co. premiums

President Donald Trump pledged “much less expensive and much better” health care in January, but a Senate bill would more than double premiums for a 60-year-old in Palm Beach County making $50,000 a year, a new analysis shows. Added premium costs annually: $6,910, or a 135 percent hike.

(Getty Images)

It’s a double whammy for a 60-year-old making $20,000 a  year. Premiums paid out of pocket more than double to $2,080, and the consumer would also lose by 2020 government help of about $4,800 this year to cover co-pays and deductibles, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The consumer would have to cover that shortfall herself.

“In a very real sense, the Senate bill offers you less coverage and costs you more,” said Dave Bruns, AARP Florida communications manager. “That is borne out by the Kaiser Family Foundation data and by our analysis of the bill.”

Others could come out ahead under the Senate bill. A 27-year-old living in Palm Beach County and making $50,000 would save $260 a year on 2020 premiums in a silver healthcare.gov plan under the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act, according to Kaiser’s analysis.

Trump tweeted Monday, “Republican Senators are working very hard to get there, with no help from the Democrats. Not easy! Perhaps just let OCare crash & burn!” OCare would be shorthand for Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act.

Senate bill supporters say it protects those with pre-existing conditions, but the bill could let states waive rules that could make such coverage much more costly to the consumer, said Michelle Long, policy analyst for the foundation’s Health Care Marketplace Project. Potential changes include letting insurers reimpose annual or lifetime caps on benefits or opt out of certain “essential benefits” they must cover now, she said.

“I don’t see anything in the language to prevent that,” Long said.

Senate leaders have said they hope to vote on the bill as early as this week.

“The American people deserve #BetterCare, which is exactly what we’re working to bring them,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., tweeted Monday.

Though it offers more subsidies for low-income consumers than the House bill does, the Senate plan still lets insurers charge older consumers five times as much as younger ones. Advocacy group AARP has staunchly opposed this as an “age tax.”

Both the House and Senate versions would cut about $1 trillion in taxes on corporations and individuals making more than $200,000 a year.

On Monday, the American Medical Association announced its opposition to the Senate bill in a letter to McConnell. “Medicine has long operated under the precept of . . . ‘first, do no harm.’  The draft legislation violates that standard on many levels,” said the letter from James L. Madara, AMA’s CEO and executive vice president.

Palm Beach County premiums

This shows annual premiums in 2020 for a healthcare.gov silver plan, comparing the Affordable Care Act to the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act. Amounts reflect the net amount the consumer pays. It does not include the impact of cost-sharing subsidies, which are eliminated by 2020 in the Senate plan. That means total out-of-pocket costs will rise further for lower-income consumers under the Senate bill than shown here.

Age  /  Income / ACA premium  / Senate premium / Change

60      $20,000       $950                          $2,080           Costs $1,130 more

60      $50,000      $5,100                       $12,010           Costs $6,910 more

60      $100,000    $8,940                      $12,010           Costs $3,070 more

40       $20,000      $960                         $1,290             Costs   $330 more

40      $50,000       $4,210                     $4,210             No change

40       $100,000      $4,210                   $4,210             No change

27       $20,000        $950                       $1,160             Costs $210 more

27       $50,000         $3,450                   $3,190            Costs $260 less

27     $100,000         $3,450                   $3,190            Costs $260 less

Source Kaiser Family Foundation

NEW: Florida slips to 4th from bottom on long-term care scorecard

The state with the highest share of older residents ranks among the worst at meeting their needs for long-term care, a new scorecard says.

Bernard Haut

Senior advocacy group AARP said Florida has slipped to 46th among the states in a study that measures factors such as the cost of private nursing-home care as a percentage of annual household income, the number of private long-term care insurance policies in effect and the proportion of people receiving Medicaid-financed in-home care.

“We are the grayest, but far from the greatest state in America when it comes to supporting family caregivers and caring for frail older people and the disabled,” said Jack McRay, AARP Florida advocacy manager.  “While there are some bright spots in Florida’s long-term care record, it’s clear Florida is falling further behind other states.”

Florida wasn’t near the bottom in every category. For example, it ranked 21st on ensuring transitions between hospitals and long-term care in the home or in nursing homes.

But overall Florida has lost ground since ranking as the seventh worst state in a 2014 scorecard, AARP said.

For more, read the report here.

Even people who tried to protect themselves by buying private long-term care insurance have been hit with premium increases of 50 percent or more in some cases, The Palm Beach Post reported last year.

“They are forcing people who probably can’t afford this increase to give it up when they now need it more than ever,” said Bernard Haut of Boynton Beach.

 

 

HAPPENING NOW: Obamacare replacement passes House

Update 2:17 p.m.: House gets to 216 votes to pass American Health Care Act, for a final tally of 217-213. Now it goes to the Senate.

Update 1:50 p.m.: House Speaker Paul Ryan said the House cannot fail to act with insurers pulling out of states including Iowa and Virginia.

“We will not falter,” Ryan said. “We will replace. Today is the day we’re going to do this.”

Original post: Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows predicted Thursday morning the GOP plan to overhaul Obamacare will pass later in the day “by a very narrow margin,” while opposing groups including AARP said it will make coverage unaffordable for millions.

Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows

The revised American Health Care Act has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office, but Rep. Meadows, R-N.C., told CNN it will “drive premiums down” for many people.  The original plan would have pushed 24 million out of coverage, CBO projected, but Meadows said numbers in the revised bill could look “more attractive,” though the House is not waiting for them before voting.

Senior advocacy organization AARP warned before the vote that people with pre-existing conditions, including 3.1 million in Florida, could face additional costs of up to $25,000 or more a year in high-risk pools, based on past experience.

In addition, people 50 to 64 on lower incomes could pay up to $13,000 more each year in premiums and deductibles in what AARP officials call an age tax.

“These are unaffordable amounts,” AARP legislative policy director David Certner said in a conference call Thursday.

About 454,000 Floridians ages 50 to  64 enrolled and receiving tax credits in the Affordable  Care Act marketplace stand to see higher health-coverage premiums than they pay under current law, AARP officials have said. That’s more than any other state.

The bill would let states allow insurers to charge older and sicker people more and offer less comprehensive plans, potentially bringing down costs for healthier, younger and higher-income people.

Under the ACA, Florida receives the most money of any state, $5.2 billion, in federal subsidies to make premiums more affordable for lower-income consumers, the Kaiser Family Foundation calculated.

AARP officials said Thursday an additional $8 billion over five years for high-risk pools included in the latest version falls well short of a filling a need they say studies put at more than $100 billion.

On the floor, House Democrats blasted the original plan in March as a $1 trillion tax cut for corporations and the wealthy dressed up like a health care bill.

Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, speaking on the House floor Thursday, said, “Forcing the vote without a CBO score shows the Republicans are afraid of the facts.”

Trump said today he hopes for a “wonderful vote.”

 

Trumpcare II: FreedomWorks likes, AARP warns of ‘devastating’ effects

The latest version of a proposed GOP Obamacare overhaul is winning praise from low-tax, small-government advocates for its potential to lower costs for healthy people, but older consumers and those with pre-existing conditions in places like Florida fear it is a nightmare in the making.

A South Florida breast cancer survivor said Wednesday she would find it “devastating” to be forced out of coverage she now considers affordable and into a potentially much more costly option, such as a high-risk pool, under the revised GOP House plan.

“I can’t imagine being put in a high-risk pool because I can’t afford it basically,” said Stella Mariani-Gonzalez, 62, of Miami.

She described herself on a conference call organized by senior advocacy organization AARP as a self-employed cancer survivor who currently receives coverage through a policy on the Affordable Care Act  exchange.

Back in 2001, long before the ACA passed, she said her scaled-back insurance plan paid for only a handful of chemo treatments. She was forced to pay out of pocket and go hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt until she reached the point where she was indigent and could be covered by Medicaid, she said.

“My insurance was pretty much useless,” she said.

States could opt out of certain Obamacare requirements under an amendment to the GOP House replacement plan, the American Health Care Act, by U.S. Reps. Tom MacArthur, R-N.J., and Mark Meadows, R-N.C.

Under the plan, states could let insurers offer skinnier plans that don’t necessarily include things like preventive care, maternity or drug benefits. People with pre-existing conditions could be charged more if the state sets up a separate arrangement for them, such as a high-risk pool.

Whether and when that will win consensus House GOP support — let alone buy-in from Democrats or Senate approval — remains to be seen. A House plan with 17 percent support in polls collapsed in March.

But supporters of the revised proposal including the small-government advocacy group FreedomWorks say it brings the prospect of lower costs for healthy people. President Adam Brandon said the latest version provides “states with much-needed flexibility to stabilize the market, enroll more people in health plans, and bring down the cost of premiums.”

Yet it means many older and lower-income people and those at higher risk for illness could be effectively priced out of affordable coverage, AARP officials said.

A state could let insurers sell health coverage that “charged different prices and offered different benefits for people who had pre-existing conditions, such as cancer survivors, people who have survived heart attacks or strokes, people with diabetes and other health conditions,” an AARP statement said.

About 43 percent of Americans ages 50 to 64 who don’t have insurance through an employer or Medicaid have such a pre-existing condition, the group figures.

High-risk pools in most U.S. states have “functioned poorly in the past, providing inadequate coverage at exceptionally high prices,” AARP said. As of 2011, Florida’s own high-risk pool covered only two hundredths of one percent of Floridians in the non-group insurance market , the lowest percentage of any of the 35 states that offered high-risk pools then, officials said.

Because of changes to government subsidies that bring down consumer costs, many older residents were already facing staggering cost increases under the original replacement plan, AARP warned.

For example, a 64-year-old in Palm Beach County with income of $15,000 would have to pay $11,195 more per year by 2026 in insurance premiums, the AARP Public Policy Institute calculated.

 

 

 

 

 

Mar-a-Lago huddle precedes plan to repeal Obamacare on 7th anniversary

Update: Another Palm Beach weekend visitor, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, on where he stands via Twitter:

“I promised the people of Utah I would do everything I can to repeal . The House bill does not do that. I am a no.

Update:  Even after tweaks to the plan, rumblings of skepticism about the proposed Obamacare replacement effort continued Tuesday from camps including that of recent Mar-a-Lago visitor and Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C.

“I think Mark Meadows will get there too,” Trump said Tuesday according to The Hill. “Because honestly, a loss is not acceptable, folks.”

“Oh Mark, I’m coming after you,” Trump said, sparking laughter. “I hope Mark will be with us in the end.”

Changes rolled out late Monday reportedly include speeding up the expiration of Obamacare taxes, adjustments to Medicaid, and $150 billion in additional aid to lower-income and older people, including $85 billion in help said to be directed to those between ages 50 and 65. But this still might not address some of the net premium spikes for low-income individuals, a Forbes analysis suggests.

Original post: Speaker Paul Ryan said he plans bring a revamped overhaul of the Affordable Care Act to the House floor on the health law’s seventh anniversary Thursday as some key GOP players met in Palm Beach over the weekend to discuss changes to satisfy critics within the party.

“I think Thursday is most likely going to be our day to bring it forward,” Ryan said on Fox News Sunday.

Chris MacLellan of Lake Worth said the proposed overhaul of the Affordable Care Act leaves him “pretty scared” he won’t be able to afford coverage at all. (Michael Ares / The Palm Beach Post)

Ryan confirmed changes under discussion include increasing tax credits for lower-income and older people, allowing states to impose a work requirement for able-bodied Medicaid recipients and smoothing the way for states to accept a fixed block grant for Medicaid.

“Yes, those are all things that we are working on,” Ryan said.

Particularly hard hit by the current House plan, The Palm Beach Post reported, would be more than 450,000 Floridians between ages 50 and 64 who stand to lose thousands of dollars annually in government financial assistance to blunt costs, the most of any state, an AARP analysis said.

One of them is author and consultant Chris MacLellan, 60, of Lake Worth. He said he worries he may be priced out of the market completely: “I’m pretty scared about what’s ahead of me.”

A rejiggered plan must find enough support not only in the House but also the Senate to reach the president’s desk.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said he met Saturday with President Donald Trump’s team in Palm Beach’s Mar-a-Lago estate, dubbed the southern White House, to make clear he could not vote for the bill as it stands.

“Just yesterday, I spent three hours at Mar-a-Lago” trying to “fix this bill,”  Cruz said on CBS’s Face The Nation on Sunday.  Also present, he said: Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah,  and House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows R-N.C., meeting with the president’s advisers.

Cruz said, “I cannot vote for any bill that keeps premiums rising.”

He referred to a Congressional Budget Office report that forecast rates would rise up to 20 percent on ACA marketplace plans the next two years before falling to about 10 percent below what the original health law would have produced in 2026.

The CBO forecast assumes some healthy people will drop out of ACA marketplace plans because they lose government financial assistance and no longer face a penalty for lacking insurance, driving up rates for those who remain.

By 2026, rates would come in about 10 percent below what they would have been under Obamacare as insurers are allowed to offer skimpier plans and the House bill shifts remaining subsidies to benefit younger and higher-income consumers, the CBO report said.

But the loss of tax credits combined with new provisions that let insurers charge older consumers more could leave some lower-income Americans between 50 and 64 paying about $8,400 more per year, AARP officials said.

Last week Trump said, “If we’re not going to take care of the people, I’m not signing anything. I’m not going to be doing it, just so you understand.  I’m in a little way, I’m an arbitrator.”

Ryan said, “We have a president who is rolling up his sleeves, he’s learning — he’s a very quick learner on health care.  He’s a business guy who came to the presidency, and now, he’s helping us make sure that would bridge differences with members who are bringing constructive ideas and solutions for how to make this bill better.”

In all, 24 million fewer Americans would likely have insurance in a decade under the House bill compared to Obamacare, the CBO report said. Advocacy groups say that could include more than 1.3 million in Florida. Taxpayers would save about $323 billion.

An advocacy group called on Florida Gov. Rick Scott to “speak up for all of Floridians who are about to lose their health insurance and health care.”  Florida Community Health Action Information Network  wrote in an open letter that as top Washington officials were taking weekend meetings in Florida “all of a sudden you seem to have lost your voice on what we argue is the most important topic to your constituents.”

Scott did find something to say on Medicaid, designed to care for lower-income residents. The governor sent a letter Friday to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price requesting “greater flexibility from the federal government in running our statewide Medicaid program so we can deliver high-quality care without layers of government bureaucracy.”

Obamacare’s seventh anniversary arrives Thursday. Former president Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law on March 23, 2010.

Trumpcare: Florida ‘ground zero’ for cost hikes, AARP says

Florida has more than 450,000 people over age 50  — the most of any state — who risk paying thousands of dollars more per  year for health coverage under a House GOP rewrite of the Affordable Care Act, AARP officials said Thursday.

The  loss  of tax credits combined with provisions  that let insurers charge older consumers more could leave Americans between 50 and 64 paying about $8,400 more per year, the senior advocacy group said.

Consumers like Seth Scott of Greenacres say they are worried about what comes next for healthcare. (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post)

“I’m pretty scared about what’s ahead of me,”said Chris MacLellan, 60, an author and family caregiver consultant not covered by an employer’s health plan in Lake Worth. “I won’t be making enough money to cover it.”

Among the more extreme examples: A Monroe County resident making $20,000 at age 60 could lose as much as $13,000 in tax credits designed to make coverage more affordable — meaning she could be liable for costs that represent two-thirds of  her entire income, according to AARP.

A narrow 19-17 vote in the House budget committee Thursday saw three Republicans vote against it. That moved the American Health Care Act to the House Rules Committee, with GOP leaders hoping to take up the bill in the full House next week.

House Speaker Paul  Ryan told reporters there is “no  palace intrigue” reflecting divisions in Republican ranks on how best to proceed.

President  Trump emphasized he remains committed to “get something done” on health care at a Nashville rallly Wednesday.

A Congressional Budget  Office report this week calculated the House bill could save taxpayers $323 billion over 10 years but cause 24 million to drop out of coverage. Rates on ACA marketplaces could rise up to 20 percent over two years and then drop about 10 percent below what the current ACA would produce by 2026, as insurers are allowed to offer skimpier coverage and it  becomes cheaper for some younger consumers.

Some seniors with incomes around $45,000 would come out ahead with higher tax credits under the House plan,  AARP official noted. But the net effect is to make Florida “ground zero” for the impact of a GOP overhaul  that the senior advocacy organization opposes, AARP Florida director Jeff Johnson said in a conference call.

People between the ages of 50 and 64 get especially hard hit with a “double whammy,” Johnson said. The GOP plan lets insurers charge older consumers five times more than they do younger customers, instead of three times under current law, he said. AARP calls that an “age tax.”

On top of  that, Florida has more people than any other state in that age range who risk steep cuts in government assistance designed to make premiums more affordable, he said.

Florida has 454,000 people ages 50 to 64 who get government assistance to pay for ACA marketplace plans, AARP officials  said. That leads even California (399,000) and Texas (313,000),

 

Trump: Obamacare repeal ‘coming along great’ despite uproar

President Trump predicted Thursday that a GOP health care overhaul “will end in a beautiful picture,” but advocacy groups warned of ugly spikes in costs for millions of Floridians, from older consumers to working families with modest incomes.

“Despite what you hear in the press, healthcare is coming along great,” Trump tweeted. “We are talking to many groups and it will end in a beautiful picture!”

The full effects are still being analyzed in a bill not yet scored by the Congressional Budget Office. It passed a second House committee Thursday on a party-line vote after 27 hours of debate.

The Affordable Care Act helps consumers with more than just tax credits to help make insurance premiums less costly, advocates said. For example, more than 1.1 million Floridians, or 73.5 percent of those in Affordable Care Act marketplace plans, receive cost-sharing assistance to help cover things like co-pays and deductibles, officials with the group Families USA said.

President Trump

A family of three making $30,000 faces a $442 deductible under the current program, but if assistance goes away, the family’s out-of-pocket costs could skyrocket to $6,128, said Lydia Mitts, the group’s associate director of affordability.

The House GOP bill “could lead to people seeing a huge spike in their cost sharing,” Mitts said.

The proposed overhaul encourages health savings accounts, but that mostly helps higher-income earners and is not realistic for those on modest incomes or, say, people fighting cancer, advocates said.

“Health savings accounts are simply not a viable solution to meet the needs of cancer patients and survivors,” said Shelley Fuld Nasso, chief executive officer at the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. “You cannot plan ahead for a cancer diagnosis to put money in a savings account. If families don’t have extra income, then a health savings account is useless.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott called the House bill “a work in progress” but “it already is much better than Obamacare.”

But it isn’t better for seniors, particularly those 50 to 64, said AARP executive vice president Nancy LeaMond.

The House bill, dubbed the American Health Care Act, “would make health care less secure and less affordable for older Americans,” she said. It would dismantle “age rating” rules so insurers could charge older people more, she said.

The Palm Beach Post reported some older consumers on modest incomes would see certain benefits cut in half. A 60-year-old Palm Beach County resident making $20,000 a year could expect tax credits up to $7,990 to help pay for health coverage in 2020 under the Affordable Care Act, but that would be trimmed to $4,000 under the House rewrite. That potentially means a consumer of modest income now has to pay about $4,000 more out of on her own pocket each year.

The GOP plan potentially benefits taxpayers, people who don’t want the government to force them to buy insurance and some ACA marketplace consumers who get no financial assistance now because they make too much money.  Some better-off older consumers could come out ahead: A 60-year-old making $100,000 in Palm Beach County who gets no help now could see a $1,500 tax credit, the Kaiser Family Foundation calculated.

On balance, the bill hurts seniors, LeaMond said.

“Although no one believes the American health care system is perfect, the American Health Care Act is not the answer,” she said.

An AARP web ad strikes out at the overhaul effort below: