MacArthur lies again about health care - this time, to baby boomers | Editorial

Posted Oct 11, 2018

Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-3rd Dist.) lied about protecting people with pre-existing conditions. Now he's lying about boomers. 


Apparently, older people in even the reddest parts of Tom MacArthur's district are now asking him about alarming mailers that say he wants to charge them more for their health insurance. Awkward.
The congressman (R-3rd Dist.) scoffed at this idea before a friendly crowd in Ocean County. "How many of you are getting mail every day saying there's some 'age tax'? Have you see that one? I've been asked about it four or five times this morning already. That is a lie. That is just a lie."
No, it is not. And it is MacArthur who is deliberately misleading here. Boomers are right to press him on this. After all, the only reason they aren't paying more right now is that MacArthur didn't get his way.

He spearheaded an effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which failed thanks to a single vote in the Senate cast by John McCain. 
Before the ACA, it was common practice for insurers to charge older adults more. The ACA limited this, by saying a 64-year-old couldn't be charged more than three times what a 21-year-old would pay for the same coverage.
But MacArthur's effort to repeal Obamacare last year would have gutted that protection, allowing insurers to charge boomers at least five times more. AARP hired an actuarial firm that calculated that those aged 50 to 64 could be charged thousands of dollars in additional premiums, which the nonprofit advocacy group dubbed the "Age Tax."
When asked to name the lies here, MacArthur's campaign points out that this is not a literal government tax. How reassuring. His campaign spokesman, Chris Russell, also argues that New Jersey, unlike other states, has its own protective statute that caps how much more insurers can charge older people.
In other words, our state policy would have helped mitigate the disaster of what MacArthur tried to do on a national scale. We strain to see how this helps his case for re-election.

His campaign also refers us to a PolitiFact article that notes the so-called age tax "doesn't apply to seniors on Medicare, or to people over the age of 50 with medical coverage sponsored by large employers." Right.
But the truth is the state protections leave boomers vulnerable. If you retire early or lose your job before you become eligible for Medicare, you could face big increases.
And state policies wouldn't do much to protect older people with pre-existing conditions, like cancer or diabetes. Older people are more likely to have pre-existing conditions, and MacArthur's repeal would have crippled those protections, too.
He brags that he wrote an amendment requiring insurers to sell policies covering these conditions, but it was a fake, because it allowed insurers to charge much steeper prices, and to limit coverage.
Older people don't qualify for Medicare until they hit the age of 65, so they would indeed have been forced to pay more if MacArthur got his way - if they were able to afford coverage at all. They still face this danger, because Republicans have vowed to try again to repeal Obamacare.
And even those 65 and older aren't safe. House Speaker Paul Ryan says the next step for his party is to go after "entitlements" like Medicare. So boomers, re-elect Republicans at your peril. The same goes for trusting Tom MacArthur.

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