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The Obama administration is launching a special coverage program for uninsured Americans with medical problems this week, the most ambitious early investment of President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.
But here's the catch: Premiums will be a stretch for many, even after government subsidies to bring rates close to what healthier groups of people are charged.
And $5 billion that Congress allocated to the program through 2013 could run out well before that.
Premiums will vary from state to state. In California, for example, the cost for a 50-year-old is estimated at $575 a month, with a $1,500 annual deductible and 15 percent co-insurance. Premiums in states with lower medical costs could be around $400 a month.
"That's still quite a lot of money, so there will be some folks who struggle to afford that," said Marian Mulkey, health reform director for the California HealthCare Foundation. "But it's going to mean a big jump in access"...
...Medicare economists earlier estimated the program would sign up 375,000 people this year, but run out of money around the end of 2011.
That would be an embarrassment for Obama, since the program is a centerpiece of his plan for putting the nation on a path to coverage for all.