The Pepper Commission, set up to study U.S. health care under the 1988 Catastrophic Coverage Act, recommended Tuesday spending nearly $70 billion a year in federal funds on health.

The 15-member commission, named after the late Rep. Claude Pepper, D-Fla., is virtually all that remains of the 1988 law that was largely repealed after senior citizens complained about being assessed stiff taxes to fund long-term care for the elderly.The commission's recommendations included spending $24 billion on care for those under 65, $2.8 billion for routine health care for the elderly and $42.8 billion for long-term care for the elderly.

The commission estimated the cost at about $429 a year for every non-poor person in the U.S.

"These estimated costs are significant," the report said, predicting that new taxes would be needed to pay for them. "However," the report added, "the alternative is to stand by while health costs rise from over $600 billion today to close to $2 trillion" by the year 2000.

Data released by the commission rated Utah 26th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in percentage of the non-elderly covered by health insurance, 86.7%. Of the state's 1.3 million population, the commission estimated that 200,000 are not covered by health insurance.

The state also has 146,000 people who are 65 and older and 13,000 who are 85 and older, according to commission figures.

Under the health care plan, the federal government would be required to cover the unemployed and the poor through a program that would replace and expand medicaid.

The commission recommended that employers with more than 100 workers provide coverage to their employees and that the federal government use tax credits or subsidies to encourage smaller firms to do the same.