Report: Health bills show some price gaps

Posted on October 11, 2009. Filed under: health care | Tags: , , , , |

By John Fritze, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Older Americans who buy health insurance on their own could pay nearly 50% more in premiums under the Senate Finance Committee bill compared with other versions pending in Congress, an independent study says.Americans between 55 and 64 could be charged an average of $8,650 a year for insurance under the Finance Committee bill compared with $5,930 under a separate bill approved in July by the Senate health committee, according to a report by the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

 The discrepancy would not affect people who get insurance from Medicare or through work. It would apply to older Americans who buy coverage in the individual market or who are currently uninsured — about 6 million people between 55 and 64, Kaiser Family Foundation data show.

 The Finance Committee is scheduled to vote Tuesday on its bill, which would cost $829 billion over 10 years and would cover 29 million uninsured Americans. The bill would require nearly everyone to buy a health insurance policy.

 Determining how much insurance companies can consider age when setting premium prices could become a sticking point if the committee passes the bill. Democratic leaders will then have to merge the finance version with the health committee’s bill, which is more generous to older people.

 David Sloane, AARP’s chief lobbyist asks, “Why is it more acceptable to discriminate against older people?” AARP was formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons.

 Families with two people ages 45 to 64 could be charged an average of $11,939 under the finance bill compared with $9,662 under other versions of the bill, according to the report.

 Younger Americans, on the other hand, could pay less. The report found that single adults between 18 and 24 would pay $2,163 a year on average under the finance bill compared with $2,965 under legislation approved in July by the Senate health committee and bills pending in the House.

 “This intergenerational issue is where the tension comes in,” said Linda Blumberg, senior fellow at the Urban Institute and lead author of the study.

 In a July letter, the industry trade group, America’s Health Insurance Plans, asked Congress to allow them to charge older Americans five times more than younger ones — which the Urban Institute study says is close to the current industry practice. The finance bill would let insurers charge older adults four times more while the health committee and House versions of the bill set a 2-1 ratio, which is favored by AARP.

 Representatives for the AARP and the insurance industry said they would be closely watching the merging process.

    Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans said that individuals under 35 who are less likely to use insurance could wind up subsidizing coverage for everyone else if lawmakers favor older people.

 Blumberg said because younger Americans earn less on average they would receive larger federal subsidies to offset the premiums. Individuals earning between $32,490 and $43,320, for instance, would get subsidies to cover premiums that exceed 12% of their income.

 From USAToday

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Labor Unions Battle High-End Policy Tax

Posted on October 8, 2009. Filed under: America | Tags: , , , , , |

By SEAN HIGGINS, INVESTOR’S BUSINESS DAILY

Prodded by Big Labor, House Democrats are rising up against Senate Democrats’ efforts to pay for President Obama’s health care overhaul in part via a tax on high-end insurance plans.

A total of 157 House Democrats — over 60% of the party’s 256-member caucus — sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Wednesday announcing their opposition to the tax.

Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., who organized the petition, said the tax would hurt too many middle-class people in addition to the wealthier people it is intended to hit.

“This would have an impact far wider than just the Paris Hiltons of the world,” Courtney told reporters Wednesday.

Their move creates the latest snag in the already-troubled efforts to pass a health care bill this year. Democratic leaders are struggling to balance various factions in crafting legislation. Now Big Labor is making its demands as well.

The Senate Finance Committee, led by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., last week included a 40% tax on insurance plans that would cost families more than $21,000 a year or individuals more than $8,000. The threshold would increase by 1% above inflation each year.

The thresholds would move to $26,000 and $9,850 respectively for people more than 55 years old and those in high-risk professions.

The tax would fall on insurers, but they would almost certainly pass that on to customers in the form of higher premiums.

Read the rest at Investors.com

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