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"people have their eye on the current health care debate, and are worried..."

Health Insurance Editorial (Affordable Healthcare)

Many lawmakers and President Obama say they want to be sure all Americans can afford health insurance, but some people in Colorado with their eye on the current health care debate are worried about what Congress considers to be "affordable."

Liz Feder is a health policy analyst with the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, which conducted a study earlier this year on what Coloradans with different income levels could realistically afford to pay for health insurance. Feder has compared those findings to the bills currently being debated in Washington, D.C., and she says that even with measures to subsidize health coverage for lower-income households, many will still struggle to pay for a policy.

"We're still looking at a substantial number of people for whom this going to be really difficult."

One problem Feder points to is that the bills expect households to contribute up to 12.5 percent of their income toward insurance premiums, but she notes most families have to start cutting back on saving or make other, sometimes dangerous, trade-offs when health coverage begins to exceed five percent of their income.

Feder says another problem with the current bills is that they expect people living slightly above the poverty line to pay as much as three percent of their total income toward health coverage. That amount is not realistic, she says, until people make twice as much as the poverty threshold, especially since many Coloradans in that category also struggle with debt.

"When people have negative income each month, it's hard to understand where they're going to find that money."

If Congress opts to require all Americans to have health coverage, Feder warns, it should make sure not to hurt any households in the process.

"If there's a mandate, we think it needs to be implemented in a very slow and cautious way, because people are going to have to make some pretty substantial adjustments."

Feder says she also would like to see plans and subsidies that take into account the full out-of-pocket costs for health care, not just insurance premiums.

Some opponents of the bills say that expanding subsidies is unfair competition for private insurance companies. President Obama says the details are still being worked out, but he anticipates passage of a comprehensive plan this year.

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