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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Romney Care

News accounts of Mitt Romney's "qualifications" for the Oval Office usually include some glowing remarks about how he brokered an innovative health insurance proposal for Massachusetts that is becoming a model for other states. A centerpiece is that he convinced the Democratic Legislature to create a mandate that every citizen have health insurance.

Here's a word of advice to those other states: Don't do it.

Following the old public relations adage of putting out bad news on Friday, the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector released the initial outlines of the "bare bones" plan that Massachusetts residents without employer-based or state-subsidized health insurance will be required to buy.

The only more appropriate day for release would have been Thanksgiving. This is a major league turkey, and that's according to Health Care for All, the fiercest advocacy group in the state for the cause of affordable quality care.

There are two important numbers here: $295, the amount employers with more than 11 workers must pay annually to the Commonwealth for each individual if they don't provide insurance for their employees to purchase.

The other number is $380, the monthly premium for an individual, not counting the $2,000 deductible before coverage would kick in.

That's $3,245 a year for a company with 11 employees -- a fee designed to encourage employer participation, but set at a numbingly low level by Romney administration minions who drafted the regulations.

In the meantime, a single person would need to shell out a bare minimum of $6,560 -- annually in premiums and deductible. That is a numbingly expensive hit to the wallets and pocketbooks of average consumers faced with high costs of housing and transportation.

And remember, this is not the subsidized plan designed for people up to 300 percent of the poverty level. This is the mandated plan, required of everyone as part of Romney's grand bargain that everyone should have health insurance just as they have automobile insurance.

The most likely people to fall into that category are the 20- and 30-somethings who went to college in Massachusetts and work in emerging industries -- many of them small start-up companies. In other words, the future of the state's economic life.

There's obviously a long way to go here, but based on this first pass, it's very easy to see that health insurance will join housing costs and the lack of jobs as prime drivers in sending people out of state.

But look at the bright side -- those businesses not "burdened" by the health care "tax" will be able to grow, even if there's no one to fill the jobs they are supposed to create.

And Mitt Romney wants to do for America what he did for Massachusetts.

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10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is too soon to judge. Please read the 3rd comment on the HCFA posting.

January 20, 2007 9:30 AM  
Blogger Gary McGath said...

I'm glad to see some liberals opposing this. For self-employed people, this sounds particularly ruinous, as they're both employer and employee. And for anyone, the "employer" portion still comes out of the cost of hiring, and thus will depress wages or put people out of work completely.

Health insurance for the self-employed has been painfully expensive for a long time, of course; but now the insurance companies have the advantage that their "customers" -- if one can use that word of a mandatory relationship -- can't walk away.

January 20, 2007 11:54 AM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Anon, I agree it is too soon to judge -- because the blowback from this trial balloon is going to be fierce. Like this post for instance!

And Gary, I recognize the burden for self-employed and unemployed people (a brief stint on COBRA was a sobering experience). That's why I think people will "vote with their feet" if this stands up at around $400 a month.

What should be recognized though is that the individual mandate is NOT a liberal proposal. It can from Romney, who then walked away from his part of the bargain, which was to have employers pay their fair share.

I have always been troubled by the individual mandate, but I was willing to strike a deal that I thought would be fair. This one -- at this point in time -- is not.

I still believe in affordable health care for all.

January 20, 2007 3:03 PM  
Blogger Paul Levy said...

Please, Mr. Liberal, you can't pin this one just on Romney. The law was throughly vetted by both houses of the legislature. Also, I seem to recall many people claiming responsibility for its passage, from the GBIO to AIM.

That being said, I think it is way too soon to start piling on and declaring disaster. (We seem to be really good at that in MA!) There are thoughtful people of good will working on this at the Connector Authority. Let's give them a chance to work through a very complicated and difficult process before casting aspersions or reaching conclusions.

January 20, 2007 4:48 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

The law would work a lot better if the Romney folks who set the "tax" on businesses at $295 had set it higher. That would have encouraged more businesses to offer insurance directly to their employees. That in turn would have been more in keeping with the "grand bargain" the Legislature and other groups signed up for.

My biggest concern is not with the law itself but with regulations that have been crafted -- and which do not share the burden equitably between businesses and individuals. And those regs came from the Romney administration.

Those who agreed to the law with an eye to fair play for all have also have every reason to pin the blame on Romney -- since he is clearly taking credit for it (especially the individual mandate).

January 20, 2007 5:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pulleeez, enough about Romney. He's gone and best forgotten. Why this obsession with him? No one in the press held him accountable when he was governor. I guess that was just too much work for the folks in the State House press corp. Now, they watch old video clips and say "gotcha", once again avoiding their current duties. Is it their job to make sure he is not elected President, or to cover today's State House.

January 20, 2007 9:44 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

He is gone but his handiwork is not forgotten. Rather than obsession, call this one small effort to hold him accountable -- particularly in an area where he plans to try to score points with the national media. Just trying to create an electronic version of a paper trail :-)

January 21, 2007 7:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's the problem with liberals -- the self-appointed guardians of the public trust. You can't abide that one of "them" got away with fooling the public. You do not, however, apply the same standard to those of your own persuasion. Look at the fawning over the Clinton record -- gawd, the guy was a disaster. He gave away the Congress to the Republicans, whose causes he then espoused. He had so little influence in Congress that he couldn't even get good judges appointed after he lost the Congress. He was totally taken by Arafat. He missed the Al Qaeda threat. He blew Africa.

I am not saying Bush is better, by any means. I am just saying that you are a bit quick to put on your rose-colored glasses about your own guys -- and to waste time trying to ensure "justice" for those guys you never liked.

(P.S. I never liked Romney either. I am just happy he is gone!)

January 21, 2007 7:50 AM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

Talk about obsession. History will treat Clinton far better than the current Oval Office occupant. His lies have not killed anyone (Dan Burton notwithstanding) and we had peace, prosperity and respect in the world on his watch.

The initial attacks of radical Islam can now easily be dated to Lebanon -- on Ronald Reagan's watch. Or Jimmy Carter and Afghanistan. So what did they do?

I'd rather be a self-appointed guardian of the public trust than the self-appointed guardian of the bedroom than conservatives aspire to.

January 21, 2007 9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Outraged:

Anon--9the other one) was asking for the application of evenhandedness. Both sides have made terrible and egregious mistakes nationally. Bill Clinton was a dismal failure in leadership. You lead by setting the good example. "Leadership by example. We both know if I started it would take me hours to cite Bill & Hill's shortcomings.
George Bush zigged when he should have zagged. Liberals beat the drum that they are without sin. Just look around. No one is all bad nor all good. There are some acts of omission as well as commission that will certainly be a millstone around Bill Clinton's neck as well as George Bush's.

January 22, 2007 8:07 PM  

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