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Thanks to McCain for vote that protects Arizonans over age 50


When U.S. Sen. John McCain stood on the floor of his chamber last month and cast the deciding “no” vote on a flawed and ill-conceived health care bill, he was protecting hundreds of thousands of Arizonans over the age of 50 from higher costs, an age tax and massive cuts in coverage.

But as McCain so eloquently said, beating back legislation that would have upended the benefits Arizona families have counted on since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed in 2010 is only the first step. “Let’s trust each other,” the senator said in his first remarks since his surgery. “We’ve been spinning our wheels on too many important issues because we keep trying to find a way to win without help from across the aisle.”

Dana Kennedy

Dana Kennedy

After the vote, McCain pleaded with his colleagues to honor the traditions of bipartisan debate that had been the hallmark of the Senate for generations. The Senate, he said, should “hold hearings, receive input from both sides of the aisle, heed the recommendations of the nation’s governors, and produce a bill that finally delivers affordable health care for the American people.”

As state director of AARP, I couldn’t agree more. And I will be the first to admit, and certainly not the only to acknowledge, that the ACA is not perfect. We need to lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs for people over the age of 50, improve the quality of care, stabilize and foster competition in the insurance markets, increase enrollment in the exchanges, and protect Arizonans with pre-existing health conditions from outrageous cost increases.

But as a first step, we have to eliminate the uncertainty in the insurance market that the health care debate has caused. Lawmakers at the state and federal levels should make sure we keep in place the tax credits and subsidies that help people who buy insurance through the ACA marketplace afford their premiums and meet their deductibles and co-pays.

Congress should also address the factors that have driven costs up and limited access to life-saving treatments and care, which was disappointingly ignored in the recent debate.

Take prescription drugs. Prices are spiraling out of control. Earlier this year, McCain and some of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle, in both chambers, introduced a drug price transparency bill. The measure would require pharmaceutical companies to notify the federal government before they impose dramatic price hikes.

AARP would like to see this bill become law. And AARP also supports policies that would lower the cost of life-saving drugs, let Medicare negotiate prescription drug prices, improve access to generics and allow Americans to import safe – and lower cost – medicines from other countries.

On behalf of Arizona’s more than 880,000 AARP members, I want to thank McCain for safeguarding the critical health care they rely on. I urge his colleagues to heed his call to work together in the best traditions of bipartisanship.

Let’s drop the attempts to penalize people over 50 years of age for being older or sicker. It’s not fair to charge them disproportionately more for coverage just because of their age. And it’s not fair – or right – to scale back or eliminate the tax credits and subsidies that help low-income older Americans afford health insurance.

I hope Congress and the Trump administration can begin to work on commonsense solutions that will lower costs, increase access and ensure we have a quality health care system for all.

— Dana Kennedy is state director of AARP. 


The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.

One comment

  1. Thanking federal legislators for repeatedly doing things outside of their Constitutional authority only furthers the radical imbalance of control between state and federal governments we have devolved into. This methodology works because small groups that will benefit greatly are able to convince lawmakers to take actions that hurt the larger group to a small enough degree that they don’t complain–and the cycle of ever greater regulation and debt continues.

    There’s a difference between insurance and charity, a difference that has been blurred beyond recognition by the ACA and other, similar, federal programs. The real solution to ever increasing medical care costs is to bring the power of the free market to bear–something we haven’t had in the health care industry in generations.

    During the last decade overall health care expenditures (highly regulated and generally covered by health insurance plans) have increased 140%. Over that same period, LASIK eye surgeries (very little regulation and not covered by health insurance) have dropped from about $2,500 per eye to around $300 per eye even as quality of outcomes has improved. Why? Real market competition where consumers have control over their choice of doctors and facilities and can compare pricing to make the best choices. We have none of that in the current medical marketplace.

    Once the marketplace is producing the best products at the best prices we can worry about how to help those that need a hand.

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