Merrill Gardens Residents Sound Off on Trump Health Care Plans

U.S. President Donald J. Trump has officially taken the oath of office, and with that has come increasing uncertainty around many sweeping promises he made on the campaign trail and following the election, particularly in regard to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Residents at one West Coast senior living community have since expressed their concerns about what’s to come in the health care realm.

Trump has continuously vowed to repeal and replace the ACA, most recently denouncing it as “a complete and total disaster” during a news conference Jan. 11 and expressing how he intends to quickly replace it with something “far less expensive and far better.” That same evening, Republicans in the U.S. Senate led a push into the early hours of the morning to approve a resolution to dismantle the ACA.

Yet neither Trump nor lawmakers have offered specifics on what a replacement health care law entails, and that has generated serious apprehension among several residents at a Merrill Gardens senior living community in Seattle. Merrill Gardens is a Seattle-based provider with 39 properties complete or under construction across six states.

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“They haven’t said what they’re going to replace it with or how they’re going to replace it,” 87-year-old Brendan Wall, a resident at Merrill Gardens, told Kaiser Health News. “I think it’s a major crisis, and I hope to God they take enough time to think about it and act on it so that the thing will work.”

Those fears are misplaced, though, according to Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, who represents Washington’s 3rd congressional district.

“Seniors are right to be concerned about the future of the ACA, but not because of congressional Republicans’ plans,” spokeswoman Amy Pennington told Kaiser Health News in an email. “The law’s fundamental flaws, phony finances and broken promises will cause it to collapse on its own—Medicaid expansion, exchanges and all.”

Among the seniors who spoke with Kaiser Health News at Merrill Gardens, there were few complaints about their existing health insurance coverage, through platforms like Medicare, private pensions and more. Rather, their concerns revolve around proposed changes, like privatizing Medicare and revamping Medicaid and Social Security, and what that could mean for their families and the poor.

“My opinion is to not touch Medicare or Medicaid,” 76-year-old Terry Doucette said. “I mean, people are dependent upon it and there needs to be a warning time and coming together in a real thoughtful way, making everything work together, especially for the least fortunate.”

Herrera Beutler indicated she supports plans to protect Medicare and Social Security for seniors.

Despite their worries, the senior living residents understood why people would be frustrated with the ACA, due to skyrocketing costs and sometimes limited coverage choices. But the answer isn’t to get rid of a plan that has expanded insurance to 20 million people without an alternative, said 73-year-old John Ball.

“I’ve seen the backside of no insurance and living with something you hoped wouldn’t be considered a pre-existing condition,” he said. “I have a pretty strong identification with those people who didn’t have insurance and were suddenly brought into the fold of Obamacare.”

Moving forward, compromise and compassion will be necessary from political leaders, Doucette said.

“Now, we’ll see what Trump does,” she said. “He has all these ideas and thinks everyone else is on a lower level. I would like to see them work together.”

Written by Kourtney Liepelt

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