By Tom Curry National affairs writer
msnbc.com
updated 12/21/2009 11:55:34 AM ET 2009-12-21T16:55:34

Claim: Under the Senate bill, a person's assets won't bar them from getting subsidies to buy insurance.

The Senate health insurance overhaul aims to expand coverage by giving subsidies, in the form of tax credits, to people to buy insurance on the newly created marketplaces, or exchanges. People with incomes of up to four times the federal poverty level, or about $88,000 for a family of four, would be eligible for the subsidies as long as they were not already covered by an employer’s insurance plan. For a family of four with an income of $86,000, the subsidy would be about $2,650. A worker would also get subsidies if the premiums he'd have to pay for employer-sponsored coverage would exceed 9.8 percent of his family income. Should such subsidies go to people with assets such as boats and vacation homes?

Fact or fiction?
Fact. According to a Democratic Senate aide, under the Senate legislation, a person's assets would not affect his eligibility to get a subsidy. Only income would count in determining eligibility. There is precedent for using an assets test in a federal health entitlement program. Medicaid imposes complex assets tests on married couples where one spouse is potentially eligible for nursing home benefits to ensure that people with substantial assets are paying at least part of the cost of the care. Urban Institute budget expert Eugene Steuerle said people who qualify for low-income support generally do not have much in the way of assets, but "in a more universal system and one that goes up to four times poverty levels, the issue is more complex." 

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