High Premiums in Senate Democrats’ Health Plan
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN and ROBERT PEAR
Published: December 10, 2009
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats have provided few details about their latest health care proposal, but this much seems clear: Anyone who wants to buy the same health benefits as members of Congress, or to buy coverage through Medicare, should be prepared to fork over a large chunk of cash.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, a family of four earning $54,000 in 2016, when the health legislation is fully in effect, would be eligible for a subsidy of $10,100 to help defray the cost of insurance under the health legislation being debated by the Senate. By then, one of the most popular federal plans, a nationwide Blue Cross and Blue Shield policy, is projected to cost more than $20,000.
That could leave the family earning $54,000, slightly more than the current median household income, with monthly premium costs of more than $825.
The Democrats’ proposal would also allow some people ages 55 to 64 to “buy in” to Medicare, starting in 2011. That could cost about $7,600 a year per person or $15,200 for a couple, according to a budget office analysis of an earlier version of the concept. No subsidies would be available until 2014.
Senate Democrats have been careful to say that their proposal is not intended to offer exactly the same benefits that members of Congress have. In many cases, federal subsidies would cover a smaller share of the premium than what the government contributes to the cost of health insurance for federal employees.
The Medicare buy-in proposal is intended to fill a gap in the social safety net for millions of people nearing retirement who are unable to obtain or afford insurance. In general, the new Medicare option would be available only to people who are uninsured. People 55 to 64 who have employer-sponsored insurance would be expected to keep it.