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Posts tagged ‘health insurance premiums’

Protecting the Little Guys

October 15, 2015

reptomstevens

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(This opinion piece appeared in the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus on October 15, 2015, and will appear in other media in the days ahead.)

Since the legislature adjourned this spring, my friends, neighbors and constituents have asked me what their elected officials did this year to help “the little guy.” In most cases, they are referring to middle and working class Vermonters who are striving to pay their bills, keep their families healthy and safe, and meet the day-to-day demands of jobs, homes, and communities. It’s an important question, and one that’s worth digging into.

Distinguishing the middle class​ ​in Vermont is ​difficult ​because our income groups don’t diverge all that much. Most of us consider ourselves “the little guy” and the facts bear that out. ​In a state of 314,000 income tax payers, ​most of us – about 270,000 ​ – make less than $100,000 a year​. More starkly, ​a​bout​ 200,000 of our Vermont taxpayers make less than ​$​50,000 – that’s 63%. It’s probably useful to point out that Vermont considers a “livable wage” income for an individual to be approximately $33,000. The balance of Vermonters, nearly 320,000 people, don’t file income taxes because they’re someone’s dependent or have income too low to file income taxes.

Using these figures, it’s clear that the great majority of us – nearly 80% ​of Vermonters – ​are​ middle and working class.  A cursory review of employment data indicates that we work as teachers, ​nurses, ​farmers​, mental health professionals, truck drivers, child care providers​, home health ​aides, hotel & restaurant staff, small business employees (and owners!), municipal employees, ​and more. That’s us! Read more

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Context and Perspective

August 4, 2012

reptomstevens

One of the more interesting aspects of serving, be it in the legislature or on local governmental boards, is the need to rely on the context of a discussion, point of view or an argument, as well as the perspective of the person presenting it. Too often political conversation, or discussions about what should be done, don’t progress much beyond our initial biases because we, as advocates for our position, don’t see a benefit in giving ground or acknowledging there may be a common ground based on debate and compromise.

Take, for instance, our current discussion about health care or, more precisely, the cost of providing health care. Over the past 12 years, the amount of money we spend on personal health care has grown over 200%, and this increase is represented in our health insurance premiums, if we have employer-sponsored health care benefits or if we need to pay premiums for our state-sponsored health care. There are several arguments that are at play and unsustainable increases in cost is merely the latest and most visceral: how can we afford to keep our family covered if our costs go up X% every year and my salary doesn’t grow? Health care costs are not the only payment for a commodity that have risen astronomically–home heating with oil and propane have risen nearly 300% since 2000, as has gasoline. College tuitions have, at the least, doubled. Salaries for most Vermonters have remained static during the same time. Read more