HONOLULU — Hawaii residents who rely on tax credits to purchase health insurance can take a deep breath.
“This victory is proof that TrumpCare was never on the level. Instead of trying to pass a health care bill, Republicans tried to ram through a tax cut for the wealthy, paid for by 24 million Americans who would lose their health care in the process,” said Sen. Brian Schatz.
On Friday, the American Health Care Act was pulled from the House floor by Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, after President Donald Trump asked him to stop the debate without a vote.
“Hawaii and the rest of the country dodged a bullet by having this harmful bill pulled for a House vote, since it would have hurt seniors, low income people, children and the disabled,” said Barbara Kim Stanton, director, AARP Hawaii.
Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard opposed the measure, saying the U.S. is in need of health care reform.
“The legislation before us, though, is not the answer—it perpetuates the problems. It’s a handout to insurance and pharmaceutical companies that literally pulls the rug out from those who are most needy and most vulnerable in our communities,” she said.
According to AARP, 3 million low- to moderate-income older adults ages 50 to 64, including 5,000 people in Hawaii, rely on tax credits under the Affordable Care Act to purchase health insurance.
From taxing a certain age range of the community to taking away benefits, the American Health Care Act would have had a negative effect on Kauai, Stanton said.
“It’s a mean-spirited bill that cuts essential services for most vulnerable population we have,” Stanton said.
The health care act sought to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. It would have taken away the Medicaid Expansion program, which is part of Obamacare, after 2020.
The act also included age-based tax credits and would require companies to cover pre-existing conditions. The bill would have ended Obama’s Medicaid expansion and trimmed future federal financing for the federal-state program, letting states impose work requirements on some of the 70 million beneficiaries.
For Stanton, the age tax was concerning.
“The American Health Care Act is a bad bill that will hurt older Americans, making health insurance unaffordable for lower- and moderate income people in Hawaii,” she said. “It’s a double whammy for people 50 to 64 years old, who are too young for Medicare.”
The bill would have created a disproportionate financial burden among in Hawaii’s people, she said.
For example, a 64-year-old in Hawaii, making $25,000 a year, would have seen their health insurance costs rise by $6,791. A 55-year-old Hawaii resident making $25,000 would have seen a $3,578 premium increase, according to a state-by-state study by AARP’s Public Policy Institute that was released this week.
“As people age, health care needs are greater and more expensive,” Stanton said.
Janice Bond, membership chair of Kauai AARP, is an advocate of ACA.
“I propose we stay with the ACA and work to strengthen it,” she said. “I would tell Congress not to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Seniors, the disabled, veterans, need all the help they can get.”
Sen. Mazie K. Hirono said, “for the past few weeks, Republicans have been fighting with each other to see how many people they can kick off insurance rolls, and how they can raise health care costs for our kupuna, working families, and women in order to provide more tax cuts for the wealthy. Today, after seven years of vowing to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the crowning achievement in a crusade to serve Republicans’ radical anti-government agenda — passing Trumpcare — failed.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.