THE BLOG
08/23/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why Do Blue Dogs Want You and Me to Pay Three Times More Than They Do for Health Care?

The Blue Dog negotiating list for health reform has been floating around for days now. Here's the list:

--Effectively bend the cost curve

-- Realign incentives to reward high quality, efficient health care; include value-based purchasing, value index, innovation center for Medicare and Medicaid, and other delivery system reforms

--Increase small business exemption and adjust for inflation

--Address end-of-life care

--Adjust the value and cost of subsidy levels

-- Provide affordability credits on a sliding scale from 100-300 percent FPL

-- Public option must negotiate rates with providers, provide greater clarity on opt out, compete on a level playing field, and be available as a fallback

--Establish consumer-driven, state-based co-ops

--Create state-based exchanges with a federal fallback

--Maintain current state-federal partnership with Medicaid, while implementing reforms that increase its value and effectiveness

I've emphasized the two in the middle, because those are the two we hear are highest on the Blue Dog list right now. They are also the ones that cut to the heart of health reform. In short, the Blue Dogs want to keep health care unaffordable for you and your family.

Right now, the House bill protects families up to 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). The Blue Dogs want to cut that back to 300%. That would cut millions of people out and leave them on their own, paying full price for health care.

What's full price?

The average family health care plan costs $12,680 per year, which comes out to $1,056 per month. For someone making 350% FPL, that's 16% of their income going to health care costs. Meanwhile, Blue Dogs -- who get health care paid for by you and me through the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan -- pay an average of just $357 per month [pdf] for health care, or $4,284 per year. They pay three times less, and they make $174,000 per year.

That's just not fair, and more importantly, Blue Dogs want to weaken the main goal of health care reform -- to make it truly affordable to families.

Instead of asking families to pay huge portions of their income for health care costs, they should agree with leaders in the House and ask those in our society who can most afford it -- those families making over $350,000 per year -- to chip in their fair share by starting to roll back the tax breaks the wealthy got under George Bush.

To do any less would be to deny the crisis going on Blue Dog districts, where health care is unaffordable and uninsurance rates are sky high. It would be a dereliction of duty, it would keep health care out of reach for millions of families, and it would be shockingly unfair.

(also posted at the NOW! blog)

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