The details of Congress’ health care “reform” legislation are finally coming into focus, and it’s not a pretty picture. Congress is essentially proposing a national version of the failing Massachusetts system.
In 2006, Massachusetts adopted a health care plan which included an individual mandate requiring residents to purchase state-approved health insurance, new regulations on insurance companies specifying who they must cover and what benefits they must provide, and a government-subsidized “public option” for low-income residents. Supporters promised a utopia of “universal coverage” which would save money while improving quality of care. However, the exact opposite has occurred — health costs in Massachusetts have skyrocketed, while patient care has suffered.
Before we adopt a similar plan at the national level, Americans should know three things about the Massachusetts plan.
1) Massachusetts’ system of mandatory insurance drives up costs and violates individual rights.
Under any system of mandatory insurance, the government must necessarily specify what constitutes an “acceptable” insurance plan. Hence, this creates a giant magnet for special interest groups seeking to have their pet benefits included in the required package.
Massachusetts residents are thus required to purchase benefits they may neither need nor want, such as in vitro fertilization, chiropractor services, and autism treatment — raising insurance costs for everyone to reward a few with sufficient political “pull.” In aggregate, such mandated benefits have increased the costs of health insurance in Massachusetts by up to 50%.
Since 2006, providers have successfully lobbied to include 16 new benefits in the mandatory package (including lay midwives, orthotics, and drug-abuse treatment), and the state legislature is considering 70 more. In the past three years, insurance premiums in Massachusetts have increased by 8-10% each year, nearly twice the national average.
Mandatory insurance thus violates the individual’s right to spend his own money according to his judgment for his benefit. Instead, he much choose from a limited set of insurance plans on terms set by lobbyists and bureaucrats, rather than based on a rational assessment of his needs.
2) “Coverage” is not the same as actual medical care.
Supporters of the Massachusetts plan frequently claim that it is a success because 98% of the state’s residents are now “covered.” But this is misleading, because it conflates theoretical “coverage” with actual medical care. In fact, access to medical care has worsened for many Massachusetts residents.