WASHINGTON (TheStreet) — President Barack Obama asked Congress not to "walk away" from health care reform during his State of the Union speech on Wednesday. As legislators grapple with how to pay for a program that could cost as much as $1 trillion over 10 years, Americans are wondering how much they might have to pay for government-sponsored coverage.
While the cost for consumers will be unclear until the House and Senate bills are combined, a review of the bills gives some hints as to where it would hit the average American's wallet.
What would premiums cost?
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that insurance under the proposed "bronze" plans, the lowest level of coverage, would cost as much as $5,000 for single policies and as much as $12,500 for family policies by 2016. The average premiums among all types of plans in 2016 would be $5,800 for single policies and about $15,200 for family policies.
That's less than the current premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance. The average annual premium for these family plans has more than doubled from $5,791 in 1999 to $13,375 in 2009, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health care think tank. Individual plans rose from $2,471 to $4,824 during the same time period.
On average, covered workers contributed 17% of the total premium for single coverage and 27% for family coverage in 2009, a rate that has remained relatively stable for the past several years, according to the foundation
The Senate plan would also subsidize coverage for people with income levels between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level, which was $18,310 for a family of three in 2009. Medicaid would be expanded to all individuals with incomes up to 133% of the federal poverty level.
The Senate bill would phase in a non-coverage penalty beginning in 2012. The fee would start at $95 (or 0.5% of the person's income if that amount is larger) and rise to as much as 2% of income, or $2,250 per family and $750 for individuals, by 2016.
Companies with more than 50 employees that don't offer health insurance would be forced to pay $750 per worker under the Senate plan. At smaller firms, if even one person receives coverage, the charge is enacted.
The House bill would hit individuals with adjusted gross incomes exceeding $500,000 (and households earning more than $1 million) with a 5.4% income tax.
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