In this March 8, 2017, file photo, House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. speaks during a news conference at the Republican National Committee Headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington. Republicans intent on scrapping Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act have a budget problem. As it turns out, repealing and replacing the law they hate so much won’t save nearly as much money as getting rid of it entirely, the goal they’ve been campaigning on for seven years. That means trouble for the federal deficit and for Congress’ fiscal conservatives who repeatedly warn about leaving their children and grandchildren worse off financially. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Could changes to GOP health plan help older Georgians, Trump voters?

The move announced Monday night could bolster tax credits for people ages 50 to 64, many of them working class who voted for Donald Trump. The tax credits are aimed at helping people who don’t have insurance through an employer buy their own coverage.

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It’s unclear at this point just how much the new proposal might help.

Right now under the GOP plan, thousands of older Georgians -- many from rural areas that voted largely for Trump -- could lose thousands of dollars in tax credits.

Without it, some couldn’t afford coverage and would be forced to drop it.

Overall, an estimated 750,000 Georgians could lose their health coverage under the Republican plan, according to an analysis by Georgia State University. The proposed bill is set for a vote on the House floor on Thursday.

Joel and Katie Blevins are currently insured under the Affordable Care Act, which is under fire by the current administration. The Blevins talk about how the potential repeal could impact them and others in their community. (David Barnes/AJC)

Both the GOP plan and Obamacare offer tax credits but in very different ways. Obamacare credits are based on family income, the cost of insurance and where you live. That set up benefits the poor the most. The GOP plan is mostly based on age, not income. It offers lump-sum credits between $2,000 to $4,000 depending on how old you are. So a 50-year-old making $20,000 a year and someone the same age making $50,000 would get the same amount.

President Trump met with Republican lawmakers Tuesday morning to urge them to get on board with the plan.

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House Speaker Paul Ryan also discussed the changes in a press conference Tuesday.

“I think what this comes down to is what it said on those banners last night at (Trump’s) rally in Kentucky; promises made, promises kept. Obamacare was anything but that. People were promised one thing and they were given another,” Ryan said. “They were promised that they'd get lower premiums. Instead, premiums are skyrocketing and people are paying so much more.”

Kenneth Peek, a farmer in the South Georgia city of Ellaville, voted for Donald Trump hoping for reforms that bring down his health care costs. But preliminary analysis indicates that the proposed GOP health plan would hurt him, not help.
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Consumer advocates and Democrats argue the plan favors the wealthy to the detriment of the poor.

With just days before the House is expected to vote on the GOP plan, called the American Health Care Act, it is far from a done deal.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus are still opposed to the bill, though Ryan said Trump has won over some lawmakers within their ranks. But other hardliners want to see Obamacare scrapped in its entirety.

“While I have some concerns with this bill in its current form – chief among them being its impact on older Americans and continued federal government interference – I remain hopeful that we can advance a practical, market-driven health care plan that will reduce costs for American families,” Rep. Jody Hice, a Georgia Republican and Freedom Caucus member, said through a spokeswoman on Monday.

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Meanwhile, moderates in the House and Senate worry about the large numbers of Americans who could lose their insurance under the plan.

It could cause an 24 million people to lose their coverage in the next decade, according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office, Congress’ nonpartisan scorekeeper. 

The plan would also reduce the federal deficit by nearly $340 billion over that period.

No estimates are yet available on how changes to the GOP plan could affect the deficit or the numbers of Americans who lose or gain insurance coverage.

If the plan does pass the House this week, it faces a tough battle in the Senate. Several Republican senators from states that have benefited from Medicaid expansion oppose the legislation.

The House Rules Committee is set to discuss the plan on Wednesday.

- Staff writer Tamar Hallerman contributed to this report.

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