KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

President And Congress Delve Into Age Rating

The president and Congress are delving into issues of age rating, which most acutely affects people in their fifties and early sixties before they qualify for Medicare. The Chicago Tribune/Associated Press reports: "President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats want to restrict that practice as part of a top-to-bottom reshaping of the nation's health care system, a change that will help them politically with aging Americans skeptical about the government's plans."

"Urging them to do it is AARP, the powerful senior citizens' lobby, which says making older people pay more amounts to age discrimination. On the opposite side is the health insurance industry, which says it's an unavoidable business decision because premiums are based on expected expenses and older people have higher health care costs. ... In states without restrictions on the practice - around a dozen limit it to one degree or another - insurance companies will typically charge six or seven times as much to older customers as to younger ones. ... House Democrats have proposed imposing an age rating limit of 2 to 1, meaning that a 60-year-old could only be charged twice as much as a 20-year-old based on age. ... In his committee's bill, Baucus originally had proposed a 5 to 1 age rating limit. ... [but] lowered it to 4 to 1. ...It's uncertain where age rating will end up in any final bill that passes Congress, and Obama's position is unclear" (Werner, 9/29). 

The Tennessean reports: "Some youth advocates are concerned that limiting the differential between young and old to a 4-to-1 or 2-to-1 ratio - as proposed in health-care reform bills before Congress - would discourage too many young people from getting coverage because their costs would have to rise. Nearly 19 million of the uninsured nationwide (about 40 percent) are between ages 18 and 34. ... Other critics are concerned about writing too many details into the health-care reform legislation" (Ward, 9/30).

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