Friday, March 12, 2010

Why Mitt Romney and Beacon Hill May Have Doomed the National HCR Bill

This Newsweek video, using one example of a single mother of three here in Massachusetts, makes a case that a national health care reform bill with an individual mandate yet no public option or one that should be sneezed at, will be catastrophic for millions of families.

Here in Massachusetts, Mitt Romney in December 2006 signed into law a state-wide health care "reform" bill that imposes a mandate without any real public option whatsoever. The closest thing we have to a "public option" is Masshealth, which used to be provided to low income families and individuals. Specifically, before the Romney/Beacon Hill bill, Masshealth was the health insurance provided to families on AFDC or welfare.

Yet a quick trip to shows that the entire program, our laughable "public option", has been co-opted by six of the largest health care "providers" in the Commonwealth: Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Harvard Pilgrim, Neighborhood Health Plan, Tufts, Health New England and the justifiably reviled Fallon.

As I said last year, I poked around the website shopping for the cheapest health care plan available through Masshealth and was stunned to find the very most inexpensive one I could get, based on my age and income, was $70 a week. My last job, which carried Fallon, would've cost me $63 and change.

A revisit today to tells me, without factoring in my income, that my lowest monthly premiums would be $314.15, or $78.54 a week, a rise of almost $9 a week just in the last few months.

That's almost half what I get to keep of my unemployment check after child support.

These are the plans that are on the approved list and if you get out-of-state affordable health insurance such as the single mom profiled in the lead video, even if you're complying with the law, you will lose your personal exemption the first year then have to pay a fine of $919 every year thereafter (unless you're found to be too indigent to afford health care).

The Massachusetts single mother above is complying with the spirit of the law, if not the exact letter of the law and not only does she have to pay her premiums and co-pays, she also writes a check to the Commonwealth's Dept. of Revenue every year for $1500. The premiums for her existing plan plus the $1500 fine still come to less than what a state-approved health care plan for four would cost.

Capitol Hill is enviously eyeing Massachusetts and its shockingly corrupt health care system which was suddenly touted and hailed (including Jon Stewart's Daily Show) during the Martha Coakley/Scott Brown runoff election without anyone, seemingly, truly understanding what our 2006 health care "reform" really is.

It was mutually understood by both Republicans and Democrats on Beacon Hill that premiums would start to skyrocket before the ink on the bill was even dry. The pious mantra was that by widening the pool in the Commonwealth, the rates would get more competitive. Yet the only competition we've seen, especially in the workplace, is HMO's vying to see who can get away with raising their premiums and deductibles the highest. The state insurance commission has for years been a toothless entity and is largely if not entirely powerless to halt the rise of health costs and recission.

Nowadays, during the current nationwide health care debate, we'd heard the same thing from the President at Blair House last month: By widening the pool through a wide-reaching mandate, health care costs will go down.

To cite just my own personal experience, consider these numbers:

In late 2003, when I started at my last job, Fallon offered single health and dental coverage at $31 and change a week. Long before I left in April 2009, the premiums had ballooned to over $63 a week through the same HMO. The premiums and co-pays went up especially after Romney signed the bill into law. And that was the idea all along: To provide a select group comprised of six of the most ruthless, unconscionable HMOs in the Commonwealth with 6,497,967 captive paying customers who have no choice but to pay the premiums they set with little or no oversight from any insurance commission.

And everyone but Alan Grayson and Bernie Sanders, it seems, is bound and determined to visit that economic catastrophe on a nation of over 300,000,000.

Let's get one thing straight: The failure of a public option, which is virtually absent from the Senate version of the health care bill, would result in a $300,000,000,000 windfall for AHIP.

And even though, in its present state, enforcement of noncompliance through two of the US tax codes would not necessarily be all-inclusive, many families too cash-strapped for health coverage even after the "reform" takes effect could be hit hard by the government that swore to protect them from catastrophic medical-related costs. And, with the 2005 bankruptcy bill still very much in place, filing for Chapter 7 or 11 won't even be a viable Plan B.

This is why, if Capitol Hill is so obsessed with the health care "reform" miracle in Massachusetts that was foisted off on us by the detestable Mitt Romney and the stupendously corrupt lawmakers on Beacon Hill, who'd benefited handsomely from campaign contributions from all 6 of the HMOs representing MassHealth, then they ought to look at the downside and not just the so-called upside.

Health care needs to be two things: Affordable and universal. The mandate purports to cover the universal but for many struggling families, including one job households such as ours where people are forced to live on unemployment for more than a year at a time, it's often far from affordable even when one goes through the state.

Massachusetts employers, many of them small business owners such as my last boss struggling to balance their own books, are chipping in less and less toward employer-provided coverage or are dropping it entirely. Some are not in compliance with the law and are also realizing that paying the fine is far cheaper than covering a significant percentage of their employees' premiums. That very fact, that health insurance providers fleece us so ruthlessly that paying the fine is actually cheaper, should alone provide a rationale for real, actual reform and not the cynical, hostile definition of "reform" that we see every day on Capitol Hill.

Visiting this on us on a national scale may well prove to be the tipping point that finally plunges us into a full-blown depression especially while we're going broke financing two losing causes in Iraq and Afghanistan and bailing out corporations as greedy, reckless and sociopathic as the HMOs to the tune of tens of trillions. Enacting real, honest-to-God health care reform will, on the other hand, be our first economic savior.


At March 12, 2010 at 12:09 PM, Anonymous Comrade Rutherford said...

"And everyone but Alan Grayson and Bernie Sanders, "

And Dennis Kucinich, don't forget him. So-called 'liberal' Markos Melitsas wrote a post calling for him to be 'primaried' by some fake Democrat because Kucinich vowed to vote against the mandated transfer of wealth from the poor and middle class to the health indutry CEOs and shareholders.

At March 12, 2010 at 2:21 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Oh, please. Markos? A former Republican? Why are we listening to him? Looks like he's strayed off the reservation just like Larry Johnson did. Markos going after Kucinich with his ceremonial threats is more of a referendum on Markos' ego than it is on Kucinich's liberal bona fides.

Markos needs to get over himself and to stop inflating his self-importance. This isn't a typical GOP filibuster for its own sake. There's a method to Kucinich opposing this bill and for Markos to fall in love with a HCR bill without a public option or single payer proves that he's not only drunk Obama's Koolaid but had mainlined it in an IV.

Just try posting something critical of Obama on DKos and watch the flying monkeys turn the orange skies black. It's a like another version of or Little Green Footballs.


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