Measure To Protect Older Insured Could Impact The Young

In most states, insurers charge older people much higher health insurance premiums than their younger counterparts, a practice companies say is "an unavoidable business decision" because the risk of getting sick rises with age, the Associated Press reports. Healthy people in their early 50s can face charges six or seven times as much as an overweight 20-year-old with health problems. Democrats in Congress have proposed limiting so-called "age rating" to a 2 to 1 ration, meaning the older person could only be charged twice as much as the younger one. The retirees' lobby, AARP, advocates for that limit, but insurers say younger people could pay more for their coverage if the change takes effect (Werner, 9/29).

"Young adults remain some of the strongest supporters of a health-care overhaul, but many acknowledge they don't understand proposals that will likely saddle them with higher costs," the Wall Street Journal reports. A recent poll shows that 48 percent don't understand or only partially understand the issues being debated. The change in the age rating ratio, for instance, could keep costs down for older customers, but, the younger people are "going to see a fairly large increase in what they spend for health care relative to the current situation," said Georgia State University professor Bill Custer.  According to the Journal, the bills currently under consideration require all adults to purchase insurance, "although the Senate Finance Committee proposal would let people 25 years or younger pay cheaper rates for limited, catastrophic coverage" (Merchant, 9/29).

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