According to the New York Times, Massachusetts is likely to become the first state to provide universal health care coverage after the state legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill on April 4. "This is probably about as close as you can get to universal," said Paul Ginsburg, an economist who is president of the nonpartisan Center for Studying Health System Change in Washington.
This is no late April fool's joke. But as is often the case with these situations universal healthcare in the U.S. is very different from universal healthcare in Europe. In Europe it means that the government provides your healthcare. Period. In the U.S. it means that the government forces you to provide your own coverage. In fact, the bill "requires all Massachusetts residents to obtain health coverage by July 1, 2007."
And what about those individuals who don't comply? They will be penalized on their state income taxes.
But what about the employers who don't provide insurance for their employees? They will also be penalized. They'll have to pay a whopping $295 per employee. Per year. Considering that health insurance may cost an employer from several thousand dollars to over ten thousand dollars per employee, the choice would appear to be a real tough one.
Reality in Massachusetts is that the state already has some of the highest individual insurance costs because of consumer-friendly insurance laws which include provisions for no pre-existing conditions. That should be a good thing, but in the hands of the "free market" it simply results in high prices for everyone and the healthy staying out of the system, driving up the cost even more. So now, there's a cure for those healthy slackers who refuse to pay high insurance prices in MA; if they don't pay, they'll get a tax increase.
Meanwhile, no one is addressing the root of the problem, which is to control the outrageous administrative burden that health insurance companies cause our patients, physicians, and the entire health system.
BusinessWeek in a recent cover article listed their annual ranking of the 50 fastest growing corporations. But they failed drawing any conclusions from the fact that after Apple Computer landed in the number one spot, the computer maker was followed by three companies that make all their money on administering drugs and healthcare to sick Americans; WellPoint, the nation's biggest health insurer, Caremark Rx, one of the largest pharmacy benefits managers (a company that manages prescriptions for patients and pharmacies), and UnitedHealth Group which provides health insurance and other services to 65 million Americans. Guess who is paying for their growth?
There is one group of people celebrating today in Massachusetts. The extremely wealthy health insurance company executives.
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