By Susan Redden and Andy Ostmeyer
A typical Joplin family — let’s call them the Bumsteads, since that famous comic-strip family lived in Joplin — would pay thousands of dollars annually in health insurance premiums under plans being debated in Washington, D.C.
They then could pay hundreds and perhaps thousands of dollars more in deductibles and co-pays, according to a separate analysis.
Legislation advancing in Congress would require all Americans to get health insurance — through an employer, a government program or by buying it themselves. Tax credits for those who sign on to a government program would offset premiums, but the Bumsteads would pay $5,625 per year out of their pocket under one of the leading government plans.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that per capita income last year for the Joplin area averaged $28,429. Per capita personal income includes wages, salaries and benefits paid by employers. It also includes dividend, interest and transfer payments such as Social Security. A two-income family — Blondie and Dagwood both working — would then earn $56,858.
The Health Reform Subsidy Calculator provided online by the Kaiser Family Foundation offers ballpark estimates of what households of varying incomes and ages would pay under different Democratic health care proposals, which are still being revised.
Under a plan advanced by the Senate Finance Committee, the Bumsteads with their two children could expect their annual premium to cost $7,548, with $1,923 coming from a government subsidy. The remaining $5,625, or $468.75 per month, would come from the family.
The Bumsteads would pay 74.5 percent of the premium, and their share would consume 9.9 percent of their overall income.
A different plan, put forth earlier by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, would provide more generous subsidies. Under that plan, the Bumsteads would expect their health insurance to cost $11,995, but the subsidy from the government would be $8,606. That would leave them with a cost of $3,389 per year, or $282.42 per month. The family would pay 28 percent of the total premium, and the family’s share would consume about 6 percent of its income.
Kaiser’s calculator doesn’t take into account co-payments and deductibles that could add hundreds of dollars or even several thousand dollars to a family’s total medical expenses.
A Congressional Budget Office analysis estimates that total health care expenses could average 20 percent of income for some families by 2016.
“For some people it’s going to be a heavy lift,” said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del. “We’re doing our best to make sure it’s not an impossible lift.”
Added Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine: “We have no certainty as to whether or not these plans are going to be affordable.”
Both are members of the Senate Finance Committee.
“The president is absolutely committed to making this affordable,” said Linda Douglass, spokeswoman for the White House health reform office. “That’s the whole point.”
The issue of affordability “has been lurking in the background and is nowhere near resolved yet,” said Kaiser’s president, Drew Altman. “It’s tricky because it doesn’t take a lot of people to make affordability a political problem. It just takes some very visible and understandable cases.”
At the root of the concerns is the push to cut the overall cost of the health care overhaul legislation. Congress is trimming the budget for subsidies to meet Obama’s target of $900 billion over 10 years — as does the plan written by Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Finance Committee.
The legislation provides the most generous subsidies to those at or near the poverty line, about $22,000 for a family of four. But as income rises, the subsidies taper off.
A family making $90,000 would get no federal subsidy. That could be tricky for a self-employed person who has a particularly good year financially.
If the Bumsteads made that amount, they would pay the entire cost of their health insurance under the Senate Finance Committee plan, and it would cost them $13,112 per year just for the premiums, or 14.6 percent of their overall income.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
“Dagwood Bumstead and family, including Daisy and the pups, live in the suburbs of Joplin,” it was reported in The Joplin Globe in August 1946. Chic Young, the artist and creator of the “Blondie” comic strip, made the announcement that summer.
<img src="http://www.joplinglobeonline.com/images/zope/extra.gif" border=0>Typical Joplin family would pay $5,625 for premium under one proposal<font color="#ff0000"> w/ health care subsidy calculator</font>
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