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Fixing health law glitch to save $13b

Fixing health law glitch to save $13b

By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar

Associated Press / July 19, 2011

WASHINGTON – Fixing a glitch in President Obama’s health care law would save taxpayers $13 billion without adding to the number of uninsured people, congressional budget referees say.

The amount may pale in comparison to the “grand bargain’’ spending-cut plan that the president is looking for, but negotiators have to start somewhere to reach the goal of cutting deficits by $4 trillion over a decade.

“This proposal represents an area of savings where there is a rare opportunity for agreement on both sides of the aisle,’’ said Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming, senior Republican on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

Enzi and other lawmakers introduced legislation yesterday to fix a glitch that would have allowed some middle-class early retirees to get health insurance at virtually no cost by qualifying for Medicaid coverage meant for the poor. The problem came to light recently, an obscure provision of the complex health care law that changed the practice of counting Social Security benefits as income for deciding who can get Medicaid.

A retiree drawing Social Security would have paid much less for the same policy than a neighbor of the same age, similar medical history, earning the same total income from work.

Tax credits and a Medicaid expansion are part of the law’s big push to cover the uninsured, which starts in 2014. The law would also require most Americans to carry health insurance.

The White House had no immediate comment on the legislation, although administration officials have said they are interested in addressing the issue.

Enzi’s legislation would reverse the provision, requiring Social Security to be counted when determining eligibility for Medicaid and for tax credits to purchase private insurance.

In a memo provided by the senator’s office, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the legislation would reduce the deficit by about $13 billion between 2014 and 2021, without raising the number of uninsured people.

© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.