Proposed Subsidies To Expand Coverage May Miss Some Families

Democrats' reform proposals would attempt to expand health coverage to uninsured middle and low-income families with new premiums to help buy insurance plans, Kaiser Health News reports. But for many families, those efforts may not go far enough. "Under the House proposal, people receiving government subsidies could still end up spending 20 percent or more of their annual incomes on premiums, deductibles and co-insurance, according to estimates prepared by the House Committee on Ways and Means, and obtained by Kaiser Health News," according to the report. "That financial load could grow substantially if the proposal's financing — $1 trillion over a decade — is pared back as congressional leaders come under pressure to reduce the legislation's costs."

The hope is that the subsidies, and other changes to insurance policy, will make coverage affordable for millions of the uninsured who are currently priced out of coverage. But, there is no existing consensus on what affordable coverage really means. Some economists say most people who earn around three times the poverty level – or $32,000 for individuals – can afford coverage, and those who don't have insurance should therefore be able to buy it. However, studies show that people with low-incomes must often make significant cuts in other areas to afford insurance, and find they are unable to cover their expenses. The large deductibles associated with the plans they can afford may encourage them to postpone care or go without treatment (Rau, 9/4).

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