We all feel the pinch of rising health care costs, and now Congress is considering legislation that would allow insurance companies to tack on an extra age rating or “age tax” that would hit older consumers the hardest.

The bill in Congress would have the greatest impact on consumers ages 50 to 64, who are still too young for Medicare. The State Age Rating Flexibility Act of 2017 would allow insurers to charge them five times more for coverage than they charge younger adults for the same policies just because of their age.

Current law already allows health insurers to charge older adults up to three times what they charge other people. But AARP-sponsored research suggests that under this proposal, older adults in need of individual policies would face steep increases of approximately $3,000 extra per year for the average 60-year-old.

Many older Mainers live on fixed incomes and can ill afford such a drastic increase in any part of their budget, let alone health care. Most likely, their pensions, retirement funds and Social Security won’t be increased enough to compensate for the higher cost of health care.

If passed, this age tax will surely lead to a number of senior citizens faced with the difficult decision of whether to pay for the cost increase, their meals or for the roof over their heads. Instead of imposing an age tax on older consumers to increase profits for insurance companies, we should work harder for policies that benefit everyone.

For example, rather than target people for higher premiums based on their age, we should lower prices for prescription drugs, better coordinate care, and eliminate waste, fraud and abuse that add costs for everyone. Making it even harder for older Americans to pay for health care cannot be the answer.

Amy Madge

Wells