Don't take this as definitive, but it's more than I've seen elsewhere:
Obama's budget request would create "running room for health reform,"
the official said, by reducing spending on some health programs so the
administration would have money to devote to initiatives to expand
coverage. The biggest target is bonus payments to insurance companies
that run managed-care programs under Medicare, known as Medicare
The Bush-era program has attracted nearly a quarter of Medicare
beneficiaries to private health insurance plans that cover a package of
services such as doctor visits, prescription drugs and eyeglasses. But
the government pays the plans 13 to 17 percent more than it pays for
traditional fee-for-service coverage, according to the Medicare Payment
Advisory Commission, which advises Congress on Medicare financing
Officials also are debating whether to permit people as young as 55
to purchase coverage through Medicare. That age group is particularly
vulnerable in today's weakened economy, as many have lost jobs or seen
insurance premiums rise rapidly. The cost would depend on whether
recipients received a discount or were required to pay the full price.
There's also a good deal of information about Obama's proposed budget in that article. On health care, here is Alex's earlier post on Medicare Advantage. Medicare at age 55 is an idea I don't hear much about; is the goal to lower the standard by ten years, every now and then, to move toward a single payer system? I would think that the 55 and overs would have an incentive, and the power, to block the extension of Medicare to everyone else and thus free-ride on a medical infrastructure financed by others. The Medicare extension also has to cost real money. If you believe in adverse selection, offering Medicare at any given premium will attract only the worst risks at that premium level. So what's the break-even point? Overall the real gains from spending more money are in public health programs for the relatively young.