Washington, DC — Today, President Trump is touring a medical equipment distribution center in Allentown, Pennsylvania where he will undoubtedly lie about his own administration’s disastrous response effort, which has severely impacted senior populations in Pennsylvania and across the country. Trump’s failure to provide adequate testing and PPE for nursing homes has put America’s seniors, who were already at higher risk to the coronavirus, in even greater danger. To make matters worse, Trump’s war on health care has also been devastating to seniors, and they now face even greater risks as the country faces a once-in-a-lifetime health care crisis while the president seeks to strip health care from 20 million Americans. In response, Protect Our Care Chair Leslie Dach issued the following statement: 

“America’s senior populations and nursing homes have been devastated by the coronavirus crisis and bore the brunt of President Trump’s disastrous response that’s failed to keep them safe. President Trump’s actions to sabotage Americans’ health care including his lawsuit to overturn our health care law and desire to gut Medicaid and Medicare will have far reaching consequences for Pennsylvania’s seniors who rely on the law and on these programs especially during this crisis. If the president was serious about taking steps to helping seniors through this crisis he would stop trying to tear apart our health care system and instead aggressively ramp up testing and production of protective equipment so that seniors in Pennsylvania and across the country are able to protect themselves from this deadly virus.” 

BACKGROUND:

Seniors And Older Adults Face Higher Risks In The Coronavirus Pandemic

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the groups “at high-risk for severe illness from Covid-19” are people 65 years and older and individuals who live in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. 
  • More than 80,000 Americans have died from coronavirus, with nearly 80 percent of deaths among those over the age of 65. 
  • Nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the country have experienced a surge in outbreaks, with about one third of U.S. deaths associated with these facilities. 
  • Coronavirus is also a threat to millions of seniors and older adults who live outside of institutions and may be exposed through work, family members, or caregivers. 
  • Roughly 47 million older adults nationwide are aging in place. More than seven million seniors, or 15 percent of the 65-and-older population residing outside of nursing homes, are considered medically frail. And 60 percent of this group have at least two chronic conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, which are serious risk factors for developing coronavirus complications. According to the Center for American Progress, nearly 32 million people age 55-64 have pre-existing conditions. 
  • Seniors residing in rural areas face additional risks. More than 7 million people age 60 and up reside in counties without intensive care beds. Additionally, 2.7 million in this group live in counties without any hospitals at all. Seniors, both those residing in nursing homes and at home, are facing additional challenges during this crisis, including isolation, food insecurity, and limited health care access. 

Trump’s Health Care Sabotage Agenda Particularly Is Harmful to Seniors

  • President Trump’s attacks on American health care have had devastating consequences for older adults. The Trump administration has worked tirelessly to undermine the ACA, Medicaid, and Medicare even as millions of seniors and older adults rely on these programs for coverage. 
  • Trump has also broken his campaign promise to let Medicare negotiate for lower drug prices, despite overwhelming support from the American people.
  • Trump’s war on health care has only exacerbated the coronavirus crisis. Comprehensive and affordable coverage is essential to ensuring that individuals with coronavirus symptoms receive the lifesaving care they need.
  • Low-income individuals are especially at risk of being exposed to the virus, as they are often service workers deemed essential and are unable to practice social distancing, but they are less likely to be insured and therefore may delay necessary care. 
  • The Kaiser Family Foundation that 2 million uninsured patients could be hospitalized due to the virus, threatening to leave them with tens of thousands in medical bills. 

Seniors Stand To Lose If The ACA Is Overturned. If The ACA Is Struck Down In Court

  • People Over The Age of 50 Will Face A $4,000 “Age Tax.” Thanks to the Republican lawsuit, insurance companies can charge people over 50 more than younger people. The Affordable Care Act limited the amount older people could be charged to three times more than younger people. If insurers were to charge five times more, as was proposed in the Republican repeal bills, that would add an average “age tax” of $4,124 for a 60-year-old in the individual market, according to the AARP.
  • Seniors Will Have To Pay More For Prescription Drugs. Thanks to the Republican lawsuit, seniors will have to pay more for prescription drugs because the Medicare “donut” hole got reopened. From 2010 to 2016, “More than 11.8 million Medicare beneficiaries have received discounts over $26.8 billion on prescription drugs – an average of $2,272 per beneficiary,” according to a January 2017 Centers on Medicare and Medicaid Services report.
  • Seniors Will No Longer Be Guaranteed Free Preventive Services And Annual Check-Ups. 60 million people with Medicare have access to free preventive services because of the Affordable Care Act.
  • Seniors Could Once Again See Less Coordinated Care. Provisions in the ACA encouraged groups of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers to come together to provide coordinated high-quality care to the Medicare patients they serve. In fact, 8.9 million Medicare beneficiaries are now benefiting from higher quality, more coordinated care. 

Trump’s Coronavirus Response Has Made Pennsylvania Less Safe

  • The Trump Administration Failed To Secure Testing. After the Trump administration decided not to use tests adopted by the World Health Organization, the CDC experienced errors and delays with their own tests. The lack of tests meant public health officials could not use surveillance testing to monitor the virus’ spread. On March 30, 2020, Trump claimed that he had not “heard about testing being a problem” in weeks, despite multiple state and local officials ringing the alarm about a lack of testing on a daily basis. 
  • Trump Refused To Authorize The Defense Production Act Until It Was Too Late. Trump waited until hospitals were already experiencing severe shortages of life-saving equipment to invoke the Defense Production Act. Had Trump acted two months ago, experts and Ford’s own timeline agree that critical supplies would already be in production. Because Trump delayed acting, necessary equipment is unlikely before June. 
  • Trump Cut Key Positions To Help Pandemic Prevention Efforts. In 2018, the Trump administration dismantled the entire global health security unit at the National Security Council, reassigning its leader, Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer, a long-time public health official who had served under both the Bush and Obama administrations. Additionally, Tom Bossert, another key official for infectious disease preparedness and biodefense strategy, left that same year. No one has since filled these positions. In 2017, the Washington Post reported that Trump had “failed to fill crucial public health positions across the government, leaving the nation ill-prepared” for a global pandemic. Trump tried to cut the global health section of the CDC, laying off staff and closing 80% of epidemic prevention activities that were designed to combat public health crises like this one. Trump also eliminated a key CDC position focused on detecting disease outbreaks in China and cut the staff at the Beijing office of the CDC by two thirds.
  • Trump Has Repeatedly Ignored Experts And Spread Misinformation About The Outbreak. Dating back to January, Trump ignored warnings about the crisis and sought to downplay the crisis. He falsely claimed the virus would disappear by April, and repeatedly said the USA was in “very good shape” in hopes of calming the markets. In February, Donald Trump cut HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s budget request to buy respirator masks and other supplies for the national stockpile by 75 percent. Now a mask shortage is forcing health care workers in Pennsylvania to go without critical protective equipment.
  • Trump’s Order For All Nursing Home Residents And Staff To Be Tested Is Too Little, Too Late. In May, the Trump administration finally ordered that all nursing home residents and staff be tested for coronavirus, however the order remains toothless as the federal government has declined to provide resources or funding for these critical tests. Advocates and industry executives say that in many states, universal testing isn’t feasible without the federal government providing the money or means to do it.