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Can Americans Afford The Emerging Health Care Bill?

By James Donahue

Congressman Dennis Kucinich may be emerging as the key swing vote on the final push to get that controversial health care bill passed. And the outspoken and controversial Kucinich says he may not vote for it in its present form.

That’s because after being smashed and hammered by the Senate, the bill now lacks a “public option.” As it is written, the bill will force all Americans to buy health insurance from private insurance companies, without any government control on how much the insurance companies can charge.

“This bill represents a giveaway to the insurance industry,” Kucinich said during an appearance on MSNBC’s Countdown With Keith Olbermann. Without offering an opportunity for people to buy into a federal Medicare plan that would offer competition to the private insurers, Kucinich said he did not think the bill would amount to much of an overhaul of the health care crisis at all.

We believe he has a strong point. As badly as we need this overhaul (and stop the insurance companies from nixing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions or dropping clients the moment they are diagnosed with a costly medical condition) we do not want a bill that forces all Americans to buy something they can’t afford.

If the bill is passed without that public option, it will amount to an estimated $70 billion a year swindle that will force many Americans into a state of bankruptcy. Sure, there is supposed to be government assistance in meeting those payments for people living on poverty incomes. But poverty income, as defined by the U.S. Bureau of Census, is really low.

Anyone working at minimum wage will earn enough to be above poverty, but lacks enough money to pay rent, buy food and meet basic costs of living. That equation clearly excludes the price of going to the doctor or buying medicine. And it is not be enough to pay the cost of health insurance.

The Bureau of Census calculates that a single person under the age of 65 would be living in poverty with an income of less than $10,831 a year. In most states the minimum wage is set at $7.25 an hour. If this person worked 40 hours a week his or her total pay before taxes would be $290 a week or slightly more than $15,000 a year.

Most likely, however, that person slaving away on a minimum wage job is only working part-time because employers like it better that way. They get to avoid having to pay for health insurance, retirement or any other job benefits. If the worker misses clocking in because of illness, they don’t get paid for time off.

Calculating basic costs of living, paying rent and utilities of an extremely modest $600 to $800 a month, paying for the fuel to drive to work and to the grocery store, paying $200 a month for food, and the cost of clothes and other miscellaneous needs, we calculate that it takes a single person at least $1000 a month just to make ends meet. That totals $12,000 a year. That does not include money for car payments, car repairs, doctor visits, going to the dentist, paying traffic tickets, and paying for other unexpected calamities. There is absolutely no room in such a budget for cable television, going to restaurants, taking summer vacations, or any of the other things Americans enjoy.

So where in this formula do we find money to buy government imposed health care insurance? We are thinking that Congressman Kucinich might be well justified in taking a stand against this severely mangled health care bill. As now written, it appears to be a camouflaged scam upon us all.