- Associated Press - Thursday, March 16, 2017

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - AARP Michigan warned on Thursday that House Republicans’ health care bill would weaken the fiscal foundation of the Medicare program that insures 1.8 million seniors and also would raise costs for those not yet old enough to receive Medicare.

More than two in five, or 4.2 million, Michigan residents are covered by either Medicare or Medicaid.

The influential advocacy group for seniors criticized a provision that would let insurers charge older customers five times more than younger ones instead of the current 3-1 limit. It expressed concern with replacing income-based subsidies, which the current law provides to help people pay premiums, with age-based tax credits that may be skimpier for people with lower incomes.

AARP said it opposes the repeal of an extra 0.9 percent payroll tax on higher-income workers, saying it would hasten the insolvency of Medicare.

“To raise it from three times the amount to five times is not something anybody that’s in that age range could possibly have been prepared for,” Diane Bright said at a news conference in Lansing. The self-employed Troy resident said she and her retired husband, who is Medicare-eligible, already are paying $6,000 more a year for health care than they expected because the insurance company he worked for scaled backed a retirement stipend.

Willie Vinson of Lansing said she worries the legislation would curb in-home services.

It “frightens me a lot,” she said, saying she does not need the care now but could later.

The Michigan League for Public Policy, which advocates for the poor, released an analysis Thursday warning against a proposal to give states a fixed amount of federal funding per Medicaid enrollee. The group said the state might have to make fewer people eligible for Medicaid, such as childless adults or seniors in nursing homes.

Michigan has 1.8 million people in the traditional Medicaid program and another 664,000 in the Healthy Michigan program, including more than 160,000 ages 50 to 64. Healthy Michigan is the state’s version of Medicaid expansion authorized under former President Barack Obama’s health law.

Gov. Rick Snyder, a strong backer of expanded Medicaid, has been tight-lipped publicly about the bill, and his administration has not indicated how it would impact Michigan. But he is among a group of seven Republican governors to urge Congress to change Medicaid from an open-ended federal entitlement to a program designed by each state within a financial limit.

In Washington, the House Budget Committee voted Thursday to narrowly advance the legislation, with defections by three GOP conservatives underscoring the obstacles party leaders face after seven years of promises to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.

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Follow David Eggert on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00 . His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/author/david-eggert

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