Lawmakers Struggle With How Age Should Influence Insurance Premiums
Age issues emerge in the health care reform debate as lawmakers struggle with how much young and old people should pay for insurance. Meanwhile, lawmakers and different groups try to woo seniors.
NPR reports: "The rules for how health insurers use age to set premium rates vary widely from state to state. ... In trying to draft new national standards, the key congressional committees agree that older people should pay more. But they differ widely on just how much more." NPR also examines the cost of premiums and compares the insurance market to a pool party, in which insurers and policy makers try to get people of all ages to join in the pool. It notes: "The bill passed by the Senate Finance Committee would allow insurers to charge older adults four times the amount it charges younger people. The House bill and the Senate health committee bill make a different choice: They would limit what insurers can charge older adults to two times the amount. The insurance industry strongly prefers the higher 4-to-1 multiple" (Varney, 10/27).
In a separate piece, NPR reports on seniors' powerful political sway: "Nearly all seniors already have health insurance through the Medicare program, but they are among the most sought-after groups in the political struggle to pass or kill a health overhaul bill. Democrats have stuffed their bills with sweeteners intended to woo the over-65 crowd. Among those sweeteners is a gradual closing of the 'doughnut hole,' the quirk in the Medicare drug benefit that requires patients to continue to pay premiums even while paying the full cost of their medicines. The bills would also eliminate copayments on preventive care. And the Senate Finance bill would pay for annual 'wellness' checkups for every Medicare patient. Currently, the program only pays for a single physical when a senior first enrolls in the program. Republicans, however, have been hammering for months the fact that much of the bill would be financed by cutting future Medicare spending" (Rovner, 10/28).