The state of Massachusetts has implemented a mandatory health insurance system. People who do not have health insurance have to pay some seriously heavy fines for not being able to obtain healthcare. Now I won’t try to cover all the details of the plan. But, I do know that it’s something that the corporate insurers working to make as large a profit as possible can live with. I also know that it’s something that the heavily Democratic state legislators can live with. And finally, I know without question, it is a plan that the people of Massachusetts have no choice but to live with.
In Massachusetts all state residents are required to have health insurance. Supposedly, there are huge government subsidies to help low-income individuals buy insurance. All companies with eleven or more workers are required to help pay for health insurance. The aim is to cover ninety five percent of the five hundred thousand uninsured residents within three years. In order to do that, the residents are split into three categories. The first group is comprised of nearly a hundred thousand poor people who qualify for Medicaid but have yet to sign up.
The second group numbers about two hundred thousand and consists of low income families and individuals who don’t qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford health insurance. This group represents the core of the uninsured across America where more than seventy percent of the forty five million uninsured Americans have family incomes under fifty thousand dollars. Those earning up to the federal poverty level would be completely covered. These people would not have to pay any premiums or any deductibles. Those making three times the poverty level would pay part of their premiums based on a sliding scale.
The third and last group consists of another two hundred thousand or so uninsured high income individuals who are the prime target of the individual health insurance mandate. The state will create a “health insurance connector” that will allow individuals and small businesses to buy insurance as if they were a large company.
Beginning next year, individuals who don’t have insurance will be subject to a penalty equal to half the cost of health insurance based on figures developed by the Kaiser Family Foundation. According to their data health insurance coverage runs about four thousand dollars a year for an individual and nearly eleven thousand dollars for a family. Those numbers can translate into some seriously healthy financial penalties. The poverty level in the United States is about $16,700 for a family of four. That means any family of four with an income of over fifty thousand dollars a year would be subject to some steep fines. In many instances over a fifth of pre-tax income would have to go to medical coverage.
Now this is an ambitious plan that has a great deal of promise. It has a great deal of promise of income and profit for insurance companies. For example: the number of people being beaten over the head to get insurance in the third category is two hundred thousand. Multiply that by the minimum annual cost for health insurance and it creates another billion dollars of income for the insurance company at best, or a half billion dollars of income for the state in the form of financial penalties.
And this is the minimum coverage. It is a sure bet that nearly every medical procedure that cost more than a Band Aid would probably by declined or requires a healthy co-payment. The insurance company isn’t about to let all that mandated by law income disappear by paying for medical treatments. There should be little doubt that doctors will be strong armed into keeping medical treatment to the absolute minimum. The rules for coverage will require adherence to such asinine regulations like patients must receive approval for emergency room treatment no later then one hour prior to any accident.
The real key to getting universal medical coverage is to get the incentive for making profit out of the system. Insurance has got to be one of the largest and most profitable industries in America. People can pay out the nose for automobile coverage and when their car is in an accident the insurance company is quick to write the car off and give the insured half what the car is actually worth. People pay for years for their homeowner’s coverage. After a hurricane that utterly destroys the home the insurance company wants to give the insured a check that would barely cover the cost to replace a door knob.
Medical insurance pretty much follows the same process. Regardless what the commercial says the insurance company isn’t your friend and the insurance company isn’t looking out for your welfare. The insurance company isn’t in the business to pay claims. The insurance company is in the business to make money for its shareholders and they cannot do that by paying for quality healthcare coverage.
If governments want to make medical coverage affordable then it could start by taking the profit out of the process. We have been programmed to believe that government managed healthcare is a bad thing. But it is not. Medicare and Medicaid are government sponsored healthcare programs that are able to function without lining anybody’s financial pockets. Nobody makes a dime off the healthcare programs provided to the President, all the Congressmen, and a gaggle of other government officials and workers. Without a doubt they have access to the best medical coverage on the planet and it is run by the government. Government sponsored healthcare may not be a bad thing after all.