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Washington, D.C. -- A briefly considered “Medicare buy-in” proposal for 55- to 64-year-olds was apparently killed in the Senate this week by self-styled moderates who claimed it would be too costly for taxpayers. While a requested study of costs by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not yet been released, a CBO study of a similar plan, conducted last year, found that there would be no public cost, yet consumers would greatly benefit from rates far below those of private insurers, said Consumer Watchdog.
 
The 2008 CBO report found that a Medicare buy-in (which would allow Americans to pay the full cost of Medicare hospital, doctor and drug coverage) just for ages 62-64 would provide dramatic savings for consumers in that group, most of whom could not buy insurance at any price in the private market due to excludable pre-existing conditions. A comprehensive policy would cost about $7,600 a year, said the CBO.
 
“A similar private HMO policy would a cost a 62-year-old up to twice as much or more, if they could get a policy at all," said Jerry Flanagan, health policy director of Consumer Watchdog. “The latest proposal in the Senate would provide even deeper savings by allowing people as young as 55 to buy in. By allowing younger individuals to into to Medicare, at their own cost, the risk is spread more widely and prices are lower for everyone. That's the way health care is supposed to work."
 
Click here to download the 2008 CBO report.  The Medicare buy-in option is discussed on page 39.
 
The 2008 CBO report predicted that the plan would have no cost to government or the Medicare system, as long as premiums were matched to actual costs for the group over time. It also foresaw that premiums would be lower if younger individuals were allowed to participate in the buy-in program, as in the Senate proposal.  
 
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Consumer Watchdog is a nonpartisan consumer advocacy organization with offices in Washington, D.C. and Santa Monica, CA. Find us on the web at: www.ConsumerWatchdog.org.