October 26, 2009 | 1:41 pm
Democrats Taking from the Poor?!
As political pressure has reduced the price tag of expanding coverage to below $1 trillion over ten years, many observers assumed Democrats would react by trimming financial assistance for the middle class–that is, people making between twice and four times the poverty line, or between $44,000 to $88,000 for a family of four.
The assumption was that if Democrats had to make tough choices about what to cut, they’d protect the the poor and most vulnerable. After all, they’re Democrats.
But now it appears that assumption may be wrong–or, at least, not entirely right.
As recent work from the Center on the Budget and Policy Priorites has shown, the bill that the Senate Finance Committee approved actually offers substantially less protection for people making less than twice the poverty line. If the bill were to pass, the result could be significant financial hardship for people least equipped to deal with it:
The greatest concern relates to people with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty line (below $36,620 for a family of three in 2009). The amounts that families between 133 percent of the poverty line (where Medicaid eligibility generally would end) and 200 percent of poverty would have to pay for insurance purchased through the health insurance exchanges would be as much as two to four times higher as under the Senate HELP Committee or House bills and would constitute a substantial burden for many of these households.
The good news is that the bill from the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP) is considerably more generous. And the Senate leadership must combine the two. (In fact, that process is supposed to wrap up today.)