KHN Exclusive: Congressional Documents Show Health Cost

Kaiser Health News
September 4, 2009

These documents, prepared by the House Committee on Ways and Means and obtained by KHN, show the maximum premiums and out-of-pocket costs low- and moderate-income people might face under the House health overhaul plan, called America’s Affordable Health Choices Act (HR 3200).

One example selected from the tables:

Family of four with an income of 400% of the federal poverty level ($88,200):

Maximum monthly premium: $809 ($9708 per year)

Out-of-pocket cap (in addition to premium): $10,000

Under the House bill for reform (HR 3200), a family of four with an income of $88,200 that had health care needs could be responsible for $19,708 of their health care costs, which is 22% of their income (23% under the Energy and Commerce amendments). That would leave them with an income of $68,492 for all of their other needs and wants (and some of that could be burnt up in out-of-network costs and non-covered services that do not apply to the cap).

When people want to know what reform is going to cost them, it is usually the numbers in these tables that they want to see. Because of concerns about federal budget deficits, it is likely that the financial responsibility for individuals and families will be even greater than these tentative tables depict.

What is not included here is the amount that we are paying through the tax system for government-financed health care, which is roughly one-half of all health care expenditures (including health plans purchased for government employees, but excluding tax subsidies of employer-sponsored plans which have an uncertain future).

Health care is very expensive, and Congress is selecting the most expensive model that has ever been devised to pay for it.

We’re retired and on Medicare, so the numbers above have little meaning for us. But they mean a lot to our children and will mean even more to our grandchildren. Selecting reform using numbers that don’t work this year and will be even worse in future years is not a legacy that we want to leave to our children and grandchildren nor anyone else’s either.

Let’s improve the least expensive model – Medicare – and then share it with all of our future generations. That’s an American solution of which we would all be proud, and, to the point, one which we could afford.