Middle Class Welfare

Sometimes one is reading a news story that follows the usual script — such as presenting the hardship that the governor proposes for pregnant women “who otherwise cannot afford health insurance,” in reporter Steve Peoples’ phrase — when an actual fact lands in the mush like a giant crystal:

Defending the proposal yesterday before a skeptical House Finance Committee, Florio told lawmakers that the pregnant women would have other options if cut. Specifically, she noted a Blue Cross & Blue Shield private plan available for $660 per month.
“That’s an option?” a concerned committee chairman Steven M. Costantino asked in disbelief.
The current state program allows pregnant women between 250 and 350 percent of the federal poverty limit — between $36,425 to $50,995 for a family of two — to buy into the state’s Medicaid system for around $300 per month. In turn, all pre-natal care and post-partum care is covered.
The state, however, is left to pick up the entire cost of each birth — approximately $8,400.

According to 2007 Census data, approximately 49% of Rhode Island families are eligible for this program. (I say approximately, because the Census includes the range 3.00-3.99 times poverty level, which I divided by two for my purposes.)
I’m certainly for encouraging the development of Rhode Island’s families, but after reviewing the actual numbers for calculating eligibility, Costantino’s incredulity over the ability of such families to afford $660 per month cannot be taken seriously. Here are the incomes at which households hit 3.5 times poverty:

  • Two people: $50,995
  • Three people: $64,085
  • Four people: $77,175
  • Five people: $90,265
  • Six people: $103,355
  • Seven or more people: $116,445

Would a little perspective among our legislators be too much to ask?

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