MANCHESTER, CT — Following the failure of the U.S. Senate to repeal the Affordable Care Act, small groups of Congresspeople have been working to fix the problems that exist and proposing solutions.
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney said the legislative proposal he’s putting forward with U.S. Rep. John B. Larson seeks to create stability in the individual marketplace and would allow 50 to 64 year olds buy into the Medicare system.
The two discussed their draft legislation outside Manchester Memorial Hospital Monday morning.
The proposal also reestablishes reinsurance for the marketplaces, maintains the cost-sharing reductions, which are payments that go to insurance companies to reduce the deductibles, co-pays, and co-insurance for low-income individuals, and reinstates risk corridors that expired in 2015 under the ACA.
It would also allow those age 50 to 64 to buy into the Medicare system without impacting the federal budget.
“All of this is budget neutral. It does not cost one penny in terms of a budget score,” Courtney said. “There’s no new public subsidy or cost the taxpayer would incur as a result of our plan.”
People in the 50 to 64 age group could use the qualifying subsidy to lower the cost of the Medicare premium.
“That would give people an option that’s far more affordable than what exists today,” Courtney said.
Currently, those who are 60 years old and purchase a gold plan are paying about $13,308 per year in premiums. Under the Medicare buy-in program that same plan would cost about $8,200 a year in premiums.
Courtney said because the Medicare population is so huge it’s ability to spread risk keeps premium payments lower than they are in the individual marketplace.
James Wadleigh, CEO of Access Health CT, said right now 50 to 64 year olds account for 35 percent of all of their enrollment in Connecticut’s exchange.
Allowing the 50 to 64 year old population to buy into Medicare would reduce costs to Medicare because the people entering the pool would be younger and healthier, and it would stabilize the individual marketplaces because those remaining would be younger and healthier.
By moving this population outside of the individual marketplace, “it would bring down the cost of healthcare for everybody else,” Wadleigh said.
Courtney and Larson were optimistic about Congress having an “appetite for targeted fixes.”
“I think it’s time now rather than swinging for the fences we ought to be hitting singles and doubles in terms of trying to fix and improve the healthcare system,” Courtney said.
He said everyone understands what will happen to insurance rates if they don’t work together on a solution.
Larson said they expect when they return to Washington D.C. on Sept. 5 for this to be viewed as a “common sense, straightforward approach,” to resolving some of the nation’s healthcare problems.
“I hope one thing everyone in Congress can agree on is the need to drive down the costs,” Larson said.
He said he thinks they can get beyond the politics and focus on a healthcare system that serves the American people. He recalled that back in 2009 they were only a few votes away from lowering the age of Medicare to 55.
“We think there’s a strong base to start from here,” Larson said.
Congress returns on Sept. 5 and that’s when the legislation will officially be introduced.