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Paul: Adding Subsidies for Older Americans Would Only Make GOP Bill More Obamacare-ish

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) discusses Obamacare replacement before a TV interview on Capitol Hill in Washington on March 15, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) told Fox News this afternoon that he hears more subsidies for older Americans are being added into the healthcare bill to make the American Health Care Act more palatable, but in his book that would push it even more in the direction of Obamacare.

The AHCA takes the 3:1 age-rate variation ratio allowed under the Affordable Care Act and bumps it up to 5:1. AARP is calling it the “age tax,” and warned members of Congress that it would report how each lawmaker voted in notices to AARP members via snail mail, email, social media and “other communications.”

“This bill, if passed in its current form, will disproportionately hurt older adults between the ages of 50 and 64 by dramatically increasing insurance premiums to unaffordable rates,” said the letter. “Allowing insurance companies to charge older adults an Age Tax 5 times or more than others for health insurance, and reducing tax credits to help pay for it, is quite simply unfair.”

Paul said he keeps hearing Republicans are “going to increase the subsidies for those just short of retirement age.” The bill comes up for a vote Thursday.

“So, adding more subsidies adds more to the bill sounds like more Obamacare-lite, not less like it. So, I don’t know if this is going to help them with conservatives. They may be able to get some of the moderates and liberals in the caucus,” he said.

“But, conservatives, we’re not too excited about having more subsidies. What we would like to see is more competition and more lowering of the insurance premiums. If you put a floor beneath the premiums, I think you actually encourage higher premiums. You don’t encourage competition.”

Paul suggested AARP buy group insurance for its members.

“You will see the insurance industry come crawling, looking for business. And they will give you better price and better terms and we will fix a large part of the problem. But instead of talking like that, we’re talking like Democrats and saying, oh, we want to give some more subsidies in order to pay for insurance,” the senator continued. All that does is enrich the insurance companies, but it isn’t the way you fix the marketplace.”

In conversations with the House Freedom Caucus, Paul said he thinks the conservative bloc has the votes to stop the bill. “If they hang together, if the conservatives hang together, what will happen is, there be renewed negotiation. It will begin anew,” he predicted.

“…I keep talking to the president about this. And I think the president is more open to negotiating than House leadership. But the bottom line, a truism of negotiation is, you don’t negotiate if you don’t have to. So, right now, the House leadership has been ramming this through committees. They don’t think they have to negotiate with conservatives. They think they can buy off one or two at a time little by little.”

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) told MSNBC this morning that GOPs are “finishing up some work” on the bill.

“We worked on it on the weekend. As you know, the president was all engaged on the weekend. There were people going down. He’s been working very — he’s the closer. He knows how to put it together. He’s got great negotiating skills. And we’re coming together with it,” Walden said. “And we’re adjusting some things that came out of CBO. We’ve looked at what they say. We’re saying, OK, how do we fix this? What do we need to adjust? That’s going on as we speak.”

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office released its analysis of the AHCA last week, finding that by next year 14 million more people would be without any health insurance while federal deficits would be reduced over the next decade by $337 billion.

Walden added that GOP leaders are “working with every element in the Republican conference,” not just the conservatives.

“To look at this one bill in isolation is not to look at the overall project,” the chairman said. “It’s like looking at a construction project where they poured the foundation and thinking the house is done. It’s not. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”