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June 2017

House-passed Healthcare Bill on Way to Senate: Should Seniors Worry About What It Mandates?

Washington Watch

 

The recent House of Representatives approval of legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”) had very little to do with health care policy – it was all about politics. But the House American Health Care bill (AHCA)– if it ever becomes law – has serious ramifications to seniors and near-seniors.

 

The House's action resulted in part from:

  • Republicans’ desire to follow through on campaign promises to dismantle President Obama's health care law so lawmakers don't have to face voters in 2018 without having done what they have pledged to do for seven years.
  • Laying the groundwork for a huge tax cut by freeing up tax dollars already distributed in the Obamacare law.
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) agenda to revamp entitlement spending of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security despite Trump's repeated campaign pledge to not touch the entitlement programs.

 

What Does It Mean to Seniors?

While most of the attention has been on the issues over pre-existing conditions, perhaps the more important story may be the bill's sweeping cuts to Medicaid, which have the potential to severely hurt the elderly, the poor and the disabled, and eliminating health care for millions. Here are the key provisions of the AHCA as approved by the House that could most impact seniors:

  • Rolls back the huge expansion of Medicaid in 30 states that came under President Obama's Affordable Care Act. The House Republicans’ legislation goes even further, enacting broad cuts to Medicaid's spending that increase over time, offsetting a huge package of tax cuts for the wealthy and medical industries.
  • Raises the bar for Medicaid eligibility among lower-income Americans and caps federal payments to states for the program through block grants. The changes would reduce federal spending on Medicaid by $880 billion over the next decade, pushing more of that financial burden on to the states.

 

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The Knuckleballer and Me

 

I am currently working on a short story titled, “The Knuckleballer.” The winner of Big League Chew’s essay contest, “What Making the Big Dance Would Mean to Me,” gets to pitch to one batter in an actual major league game.

 

Although it is fictional, there are some autobiographical parallels as well. I, like Dickie Lamb, the essay winner, was also a knuckleballer. And like him, I also got sick after chewing my grandpa’s cured tobacco when I was a kid. So I, too, switched from chewing yellow tobacco to chewing pink bubble gum – the kind that came from packs of baseball cards. And, like Dickie Lamb, I attached the cards to my bicycle spokes with clothes pins to create the coolest sound around.

 

Dickie bought his baseball cards at Priddy’s, the legendary general store near Danbury, North Carolina. It was there, on October 3, 1951, where he heard the radio broadcast of the Giants’ Bobby Thomson hitting the pennant-winning home run against the Brooklyn Dodgers. The blast became known as “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” The story's protagonist recounts how the old men, who were sitting around a pot-bellied stove, began "jumping up and down and going nuts!"

 

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