CBO score says healthcare will cost $940 billion. What will it cost you?

The Democrats' healthcare reform will cost $940 billion, according to the new CBO score. But most Americans wouldn't see much change in premiums.

Jason Reed/Reuters/File
Healthcare reform documents lay on a table before a Feb. 25 bipartisan summit between lawmakers and President Obama. A new CBO score has pegged the cost of reform at $940 billion over 10 years. But what will it cost consumers?
Rich Clabaugh/The Christian Science Monitor
What would healthcare reform cost you? Here's a breakdown by income for a single person and a family of four.

The numbers are in: The healthcare bill would cost $940 billion over 10 years, but it would raise enough revenues and save other funds that the federal deficit would be $132 billion less than it would under the status quo.

Those are the latest estimates (.pdf) by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), based on the Senate version of the bill with a package of fixes. It's sure to set off more political wrangling over whether the bill actually saves money or adds costs.

But what would healthcare reform cost you as a consumer? Surprisingly, if you're like most Americans, the answer is nothing.

Despite all the rhetoric in Washington, most Americans wouldn't see much change whether healthcare reform passes or not, according to previous CBO estimates.

For most Americans, reform's a wash

Either way, healthcare costs will keep going up. So will the cost of insurance.

Whether reform happens or not, roughly 70 percent of working Americans will continue to be covered through their large employer (more than 50 workers). By 2016, their insurance premiums on average would stay the same or actually fall up to 3 percent under the Democrats' plan, the CBO estimates.

For the 13 percent of Americans working for small employers, reform would raise premiums no more than 1 percent and lower them perhaps by 2 percent in 2016.

The winners and losers of healthcare reform are concentrated in the third group, those who would buy insurance individually or through proposed insurance exchanges.

A boon for low-income people

For lower-income Americans, representing nearly 60 percent of the people in that third group, reform is great. They would get far more health insurance than they could ever afford under the status quo. Their average premium would be subsidized by an average 56 to 59 percent, the CBO estimates.

For example: a single person earning $14,700, just above the poverty level, would pay about 7 percent of her salary. Similarly, a family of four earning $42,000 would pay an average 13 percent of its income on insurance premiums and cost-sharing items.

Rising burden for the rich

But high-income Americans, such as a self-employed consultant buying insurance on the open market, would get no such subsidy and end up paying 19 percent of income on premiums and cost-sharing items.

To pay for healthcare reform, the wealthiest households would also see their Medicare taxes boosted and a 2.9 percent tax on most of their investment income.

So that's the tradeoff of healthcare reform: Help for the poor and additional burdens on the rich, with little effect on most working Americans in the middle.

That may also explain the hyperbole on each end of the political spectrum.

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Despite all the rhetoric about the costs of healthcare reform, most consumers would see little change in their insurance premiums.