By Tom Curry National affairs writer
updated 10/5/2009 11:03:09 AM ET 2009-10-05T15:03:09

Claim: Under insurance reform, coverage for people in their fifties could cost four times as much as for younger people.

In many states, people age 50 to 65 can pay 10 times as much for health insurance as younger people do. The rationale: Older people are more likely to fall seriously ill. With the recession costing older workers their jobs and their employer-provided coverage, Congress may require that insurance for people age 50 to 65 cost no more than four times as much as for younger people. But if the age ratio is tilted favorably toward older people, younger people are likely to have to pay more for coverage.

Fact or fiction?
Fact. The Senate Finance Committee bill mandates an age ratio of 4-to-1, meaning older people would pay no more than four times as much for coverage as younger people do. Sen. John Kerry, D- Mass., wants an age ratio of 2-to-1, which is what House Democrats also want. "I don't think it is fair just because of their age, to say ‘you are going to pay 4 to 5 times more,’ and it will make insurance unaffordable for more than 7 million Americans, who are aged 50 to 65, who now lack health insurance altogether," Kerry said. But Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., opposes the 2-to-1 ratio, arguing that "you're going to put tremendous upward pressure on the premiums of young people. That will create a disincentive for them to buy insurance." The full Senate will decide the ratio when it debates the bill.

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