At Manchester Memorial Hospital Monday, Reps. John Larson and Joe Courtney proposed what they see as a common sense solution to the health care debate that has ensnarled Congress: a Medicare buy-in beginning at age 50.
Under the proposal, customers ages 50-64 in the individual insurance market would have the option to pay premiums and buy Medicare insurance coverage. Small businesses could also buy Medicare coverage for their older employees.
Because new customers must pay premiums, the proposed legislation is budget neutral and would not add to the national deficit, Courtney said, a major selling point as the Democratic congressmen solicit Republican support for their idea.
“This does not trigger a budget score that would be a huge obstacle,” he said. “I think it’s time now for us, rather than swinging for the fences, we ought to be hitting singles and doubles in terms of trying to fix and improve the health care system. I think that’s what the American people want.”
The Medicare buy-in would make the program’s population larger, younger and healthier, Larson said, potentially bringing down costs for all Medicare customers.
Larson and Courtney worked on the legislation with Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y. The three congressmen are looking to reset the health care debate after Senate Republicans failed in their final attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act late last month.
Their bill, which will be introduced when Congress returns from its August recess next month, also includes provisions to stabilize existing Affordable Care Act exchanges, like Access Health CT.
Uncertainty about the future of Obamacare has led insurers that want to continue selling policies on the exchanges to ask for double-digit rate increases. Many insurers, citing big financial losses, are leaving the exchanges altogether.
Access Health CT CEO Jim Wadleigh said, in addition to guaranteeing key payments to insurers who sell on the exchange, Larson and Courtney’s bill would shift some customers who are between 50 and 64 years old off the exchange and onto Medicare, making the exchange population younger and healthier, bringing down rates.
“If we do nothing we run the risk of hurting the tens of thousands of people, residents of Connecticut, who rely on the coverage they get through Access Health Connecticut,” he said. “This plan is a concrete step toward safeguarding all the advances we’ve made toward the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.”
Larson said Medicare’s size — more than 55 million Americans participate in the program — means the government can negotiate lower costs than private insurers.
According to a fact sheet from Larson’s office, a 60-year-old buying a gold plan on an Obamacare exchange would pay $13,308 in annual premiums, compared to $8,212 to buy in to Medicare. Customers who receive subsides under Obamacare could apply those subsidies to Medicare premiums.
“To the extent that it doesn’t trigger a budget score, I think really puts it in play in terms of a viable solution,” Courtney said. “I think … the merits of this are going to have a life of their own … when we go back into town.”
Originally published in the The Hartford Courant – August 14, 2017
By: Blair RussellAugust 14th, 2017