Mass. health reforms burden the victims

by Beacon Staff • February 14, 2007

As it turns out, however, the emperor had no clothes, and the people still don't have any health care.,When former governor Mitt Romney unveiled his plan for "universal health insurance," it was hailed as a revolutionary new system that would benefit the more than 500,000 uninsured residents in Massachusetts.

As it turns out, however, the emperor had no clothes, and the people still don't have any health care.

The idea that the plan, scheduled for complete implementation by July, will offer quality care to those who currently can't afford it is pure fantasy. It requires those above the poverty level, those making roughly $10,000 a year or more, to purchase an insurance plan from a private provider.

The monthly cost of the plan, called Commonwealth Choice, will go up incrementally based on income until a $29,400 ceiling is hit. At this point, 300 percent of the federally designated poverty level, there will be no cost reductions by the state.

The system sounds good, which was apparently enough for the majority of local media outlets whose reaction to it could only be described as fawning, but a closer look reveals how truly insulting it is.

The precise monthly costs of the Commonwealth Choice plan are still being determined, but will likely be between $18 and $106 for those who just miss the poverty line and a whopping $200 to $300 for those who make more than $29,400 per year.

What if you're a single mom or a recent college graduate who simply can't afford those extra costs?

Tough luck, say state leaders.

Those who don't purchase insurance will be hit with a higher income tax.

Talk about punishing the victims. All in all, the plan benefits hospitals, insurance companies and most employers, who are threatened with a laughably minimal fee for failing to insure workers.

It's the usual suspects. Left in the dark are the ones policymakers purport to be concerned about: the uninsured.

Worse yet, the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans concluded in late January that more than 200,000 residents who already have coverage will "be forced to buy more to meet the minimum standards," according to The Boston Globe.

It's no surprise that "brain drain," or the exodus of recent college grads from the state, is a problem that plagues Massachusetts.

State Senator Brian Joyce recently introduced legislation that would offer recent graduates of colleges in the Bay State $10,000 to stick around after graduation. The money would have to go toward a down payment on a condo or house.

Graduates can't be blamed for wanting to move elsewhere after getting their education here. Massachusetts has by far the highest health-care costs per person in the country, according to The Nation.

With the universal care plan, the state has fumbled both the chance to solve the problem and give graduates incentive to stay.

Forcing mediocre care at high costs on the uninsured is the absolute wrong way to go about solving this nation's health care crisis. Not only is the Massachusetts plan insulting, but it's a step backward from the only justifiable solution: a single-payer system, like that in Sweden.

It's enough to make a person sick.