The Crime of Being Old
Media Continue to Malign Elders

Massachusetts Attempts Near-Universal Health Coverage

category_bug_journal2.gif It was big news last week when the Massachusetts legislature approved a bill requiring all residents to purchase health insurance with the goal of covering 90 percent of the state’s uninsured. This week, Governor Mitt Romney, who had a large hand in the program’s development, signed the bill into law.

Although it is more complex in the details than this, here are the basics:

“Uninsured people earning less than the federal poverty threshold would be able to purchase subsidized policies that have no premiums, and would be responsible for very small co-payment fees for emergency-room visits and other services. Those earning between that amount and three times the poverty-level amount would be able to buy subsidized policies with premiums based on their ability to pay. Though no maximum premium is set in the bill, legislators’ intent seems to be for it to top out at about $200 to $250 per month.”
- Washington Post, 5 April 2006

People who can afford coverage and do not purchase it will be penalized on their annual state income taxes. The plan also includes inducements to businesses which employ more than ten people to provide affordable coverage and those that don’t will be assessed an annual fee of $295 for each uninsured worker.

“’This is probably about as close as you can get to universal [coverage],’ said Paul B. Ginsburg, president of the nonpartisan Center for Studying Health System Change in Washington. ‘It’s definitely going to be inspiring to other states about how there was this compromise…For a conservative Republican, this is individual responsibility. For a Democrat, this is government helping those that need help.”
- boston.com, 5 April 2006 [no longer available without a fee]

The cheering lasted less than a day before naysayers spoke up and others revealed flaws in the bill.

“…the politicians assumed that only about 500,000 people in Massachusetts are uninsured. The Census Bureau says that 748,000 are uninsured.”
- tompaine.com, 7 April 2006
“…lawmakers and an insurance executive said in interviews yesterday that they expect premiums under the bill passed this week will be about $325 a month for individuals and as much as twice that for families.”
- boston.com, 6 April 2006 [no longer available without a fee]

In addition, the bill requires insurance companies to provide “affordable coverage,” but fails to define what that is. And some experts say the requirement of the bill for all state residents to purchase insurance is unworkable:

“’Not everybody has auto insurance; not everybody pays their state income tax,’ said Michael D. Tanner, the director of health and welfare studies at the Cato Institute, a policy research organization in Washington that opposes the Massachusetts legislation because of what it views as too much government intervention.”
- The New York Times, 7 April 2006

The legislature did not calculate the costs to the state of the new plan and a number of analysts have pointed out that right now, there is little more than a hope and a dream that it will work out. Harriet L. Stanley, a member of the state’s legislative healthcare financing committee who voted for the bill said:

“This is cutting-edge conceptual healthcare policy. But we don’t yet know what it’s really going to cost us or where we’re going to get the money from. To some extent you might call it a Hail Mary pass.”
- boston.com, 6 April 2006 [no longer available without a fee]

Massachusetts should be applauded for its effort if for no other reason than bringing national attention to the crisis in U.S. healthcare. But it’s not enough. We still need national universal coverage and we need it now. It is the only cost-effective way of providing healthcare for everyone:

“A single payer universal coverage plan could cut costs by streamlining health care paperwork, making health care affordable. Massachusetts Blue Cross spends only 86 percent of premiums paying for care. It spends the rest - more than $700 million last year - on billing, marketing and other administrative costs.

“Harvard Pilgrim and Tufts Health Plan - the state’s other big insurers - are little better; each took in about $300 million more than it paid out. That’s 10 times as much overhead per enrollee as Canada’s national health insurance program. And our hospitals and doctors spent billions more fighting with insurers over payments for each band-aid and aspirin tablet.

“…If we cut bureaucracy to Canada’s level we could save $9.4 billiions annually, enough to cover all of the 748,000 uninsured in Massachusetts…”

- tompaine.com, 7 April 2006

In surveys, a majority of Americans support a single-payer, universal system and we know, as the two writers of the tompaine.com piece point out, the reason we don’t yet have it. Because it

“...threatens the multi-million dollar paychecks of insurance executives, and the outrageous profits of drug companies and medical entrepreneurs.”

Come November, when every seat in the House of Representatives is up for grabs along with one-third of the Senate, you know what to do: demand that candidates in your state support national universal healthcare to be enacted by the 2008 election, and vote against anyone who doesn’t.


Comments

We need a list of politicians who support a universal plan. Do you know where there is one?

perhaps massachusetts is setting the standard for other states, though what we need is a single-payer, national plan.

concerned elderbloggers have a role: learn more at www.healthcare-now.org/
here is EVERYTHING you want to know about john conyers' (D,Mich) bill and a way for you to get involved where you live.

step up on the soapbox for national health care NOW. blog about it!

Californians, including myself now, who like to think of ourselves as living in a trend-setting state, and we have been on many issues, have certainly dropped the ball on this healthcare one.

My hat is off to Massachusetts for their efforts to address the lack of adequate healthcare for residents in their state.

What is wrong with our leaders at the congressional and national level that they've skated around this issue for so long?

Where are our political leaders with their ideas and solutions to this healthcare crisis in our nation?

There's some time before the next election for them to devote some meaningful thought, come up with some solutions, let us voters know exactly how they plan to insure healthcare for Americans.

Where do they stand on national health care? Do they have a better solution? If so, what is it? Isn't this just one of many issues we voters have a right to expect them to address beyond "just talking about it" year after year after year, but doing, essentially nothing?

I do believe we're providing them darn good health insurance and healthy salaries in the meantime. Maybe we need to pay more attention to "productivity" charts for our representatives as so many employees in the business world today must follow. I believe it's called accountability to the bottom line, or some such words.

Our local newspaper prints a running talley on issues and voting records which I appreciate. Hope each of you has access to the same information. If not, press your news source(s) to provide the information regularly.

Again, this is one of those issues where we all have to do more than just blog and comment about it. We have to take whatever action we can, however small, and be certain we're ready to vote, either by absentee ballot, or in the booth, when election day comes. Yeah, I know, that means me too! How about you?

“…If we cut bureaucracy to Canada’s level we could save $9.4 billiions annually, enough to cover all of the 748,000 uninsured in Massachusetts

and this

“...threatens the multi-million dollar paychecks of insurance executives, and the outrageous profits of drug companies and medical entrepreneurs.”

-------------------------------------
Sounds as if "Tom Paine" is describing the new Medicare Plan D-- RX where our government added so many layers of bureaucracy,and layers of insurance plans.

Cut bureaucracy? Surely you jest?

Drug companies, insurance executives,and don't forget the lobbyest in DC and the for the most part spineless, groveling, greedy Congress and our dim GWB. What were they thinking?

Throw the bums out.

Make no mistake.....health care is big business. Among the capitalists out there running the country, do you suppose there are a few who will overlook the $$$ & do what's better for the rest of us? Fat chance. Dee

Remember Romney is a Republican who is planning a run at the big one. He can not be trusted. With what has already come out after the fact, there is likely more to come. A whole lot of smoke and mirrors did this one. I'd put it right up there next to the No Child Left Behind act. A great idea but underfunded and thereby with only the proverbial snowballs chance in you know where of really succeeding.

Thanks for the link to Conyers, this is worth checking out.

There is a need for good heathcare, don't misunderstand me on that. I like the fact that MA has taken the lead but one of the pictures in the Globe told me the real story.

Remember your history books? With all the original Constitutional Congress members sitting around watching the signing? We all saw that picture. When you panned the camera back at the similar shot take this week in Boston, there were huge signs proclaiming a "historic moment" on both sides of the stage. I don't recall those signs in the original painting!

This is going to be a disaster for a lot of people. The big problem is that people that can afford health care usually have jobs that provide the excellent benefits. People that make just enough money for survival are going to be forced out of the state. I know one man that had to drop his health insurance and take on a second job just to get by. While Mitt pats himself on the back for "providing" coverage for everyone, it is simply not the case. Forcing people to pay for something they cannot afford is going to hurt a lot of hard working families.

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