The Massachusetts Health Care Tar-baby
By Arnold Kling
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.
…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.
As government grabs the tar-baby of health care, it will flail around with mandates, rationing, price controls, and other regulations that ultimately will prove futile.
Many on the Left argue that other countries have better health care systems with more government involvement. My challenge to the Left is this: see if you can get Medicare and Medicaid to work as well as you believe the French system works or the Canadian system works or whichever you think we ought to be striving for. Only then should you reach for additional government responsibility.