RomneyCare: The Offer You Don’t Dare Refuse

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Reason Foundation senior analyst Shikha Dalmia had an interesting OP-ED piece in yesterday's Wall Street Journal (1-31-08) pertaining to RomneyCare, the form of socialized medicine foisted upon the citizens of Massachusetts by both the Democrats & former Governor Mitt Romney:

Massachusetts uses a sliding income scale to subsidize coverage for everyone up to 300% of the poverty level — or a family of four making around $60,000. Everyone over that limit is required to pay for their own coverage if their employers don't provide it. All this has inflated demand, which, combined with onerous regulations on insurance suppliers, has triggered premium increases of 12% for this year — double last year's national average.

No one is escaping the financial sting. The state health-care bill for fiscal 2008-2009 is expected to touch $400 million — 85% more than originally projected. Still the state won't be able to fully shield those it subsidizes from the premium increases. But uninsured folks who don't qualify for government help really get pounded. Before the hike, the cheapest plan for uninsured couples in their 50s cost $8,200 annually. Now, unless government bureaucrats hand them an exemption, they might well find it cheaper to pay the penalty — up to half the price of a standard policy — than purchase insurance. That is, pay to remain uninsured. This is legalized extortion: TonySopranoCare.

The government response to rising premiums is, unsurprisingly, price controls. The Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority — the bureaucracy created to oversee RomneyCare — is considering prohibiting underwriters from raising premiums more than 5% for unsubsidized plans, meanwhile requiring them to cover 40-odd benefits from hair prostheses to chiropractic services. If companies can't scale back coverage, they'll have to compromise care; and the Connector is perfectly willing to assist.

As reported in the Boston Globe, the Connector is encouraging insurance companies to include only a limited network of cheaper physicians and facilities in some plans to hold down premiums. Patients who wish to see more expensive providers will have to dig into their own pockets. Dr. Steffie Wollhandler, a professor of medicine at Harvard University, worries that the Connector will revive Gov. Romney's original idea of enrolling poor people in plans that only offer access to neighborhood health centers ill-equipped to treat anything beyond routine ailments. Forcing people to buy substandard care they cannot afford is not universal care, she says. “It is a hoax.” And so Massachusetts is marching toward a system of two-tiered medicine — the alleged market inequity that universal care is supposed to cure.

How about enforcing the mandate? In Massachusetts, non-compliers lose their personal tax exemption — about $220 — the first year, followed by fines in subsequent years.

Dalmia also examines the health care proposals of Barack Obama & Hillary Clinton. You can read the entire article by clicking this link:


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