There may be limits on how high premiums can go, but Burk points out that the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations has found that, for those of modest means who won’t qualify for subsidized coverage, age rating could push premiums to as much as 25 percent of pre-tax income. That would greatly affect older, single women who have less income and are more likely to have no employer coverage. AARP, by the way, did not sign a letter of protest to the Senate Finance Committee. The takeaway: Will allowing insurers to age rate make coverage unaffordable for many?
Robert Pear at The New York Times zeroed in on the affordability problem another way. He quoted Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden candidly saying “there are some questions” about whether insurance would be affordable: “People who are making $50,000 or $60,000 a year and are spending $13,000 on health insurance may not get much of a subsidy.” The amount of the subsidies and who is eligible for them will depend on how much money Congress finds to cover the cost.
The source and amount of that money is still very much undecided. The smaller the total Congress decides to spend, the smaller the subsidy—and the more trouble those of modest means will have affording insurance they will be required to buy. Wyden said these people will be asking “How am I going to make this work for me and my family?” Indeed that is the question for which the media needs to supply the answers. The takeaway: Which families will have to dig deepest into their pockets to buy the mandated insurance?
Over the next month, we’d like to see the press tackle each of these questions. That would be a great way to keep audiences tuned in when they might be tempted by beach reading instead.