Having the government — state or national — force individuals to purchase health insurance or face a fine is the signature component of Mitt Romney’s health care law in Massachusetts. The mandate is how Massachusetts achieved “universal” coverage. Never mind that the force of a gun can compel people to do lots of things that may or may not be in their interest otherwise. Romney continues to defend the mandate, even to the point of getting laughs out of Fred Thompson about it during the 2008 primary.
But for one Massachusetts family and likely many, many more, Romney’s mandate is no laughing matter.
Lauren and Nick Destito had a wonderful life in Plainville. They paid their bills and raised two sons in a lovely four-bedroom colonial that they were just eight years away from owning outright.
But the economy collapsed in 2008 and soon crushed the small tree and landscaping business the couple had run since 1984.
Now, the state of Massachusetts is grinding the Destitos into the dirt. The reason: the health insurance the Destitos bought, paid $750 monthly premiums on and repeatedly used at doctor visits apparently does not pass muster with the state’s mandatory universal health insurance law. Now the Destitos, both 50 and already on the brink of financial ruin, are facing a $3,000 state fine.
“I would just like to say that we did make the effort and purchased a plan,” Destito told Herman. “I don’t understand why we’re in this situation at all.”
Because, Herman explained, the state must establish if her family could afford other, better insurance, and that affordability is determined “not, unfortunately, from your perspective but from the state agency’s view.”
In other words, the state decides how much health insurance you can afford — not you.
After that stunner, Herman asked Destito detailed questions about her income and expenses right down to costs of clothing, heat, food, phones. She also said the state would need documentation on her mortgage and medical bill arrears as well as what her insurance does and does not covers.
“This is outrageous,” Winslow interjected. “Bankruptcy isn’t enough? Unemployment isn’t enough? Buying insurance isn’t enough when it’s bought from a licensed broker in Massachusetts? They should go after the broker, not the people.”
It’s never wise to extrapolate policy from one isolated case, but we should back up and ask why the state of Massachusetts believes it has the right to demand so much information from people who did nothing wrong. These are not criminals, they are people who bought a policy in good faith but the state believes it has the power to demand every shred of information from them, and to fine them if it isn’t satisfied with their answers. Why does Massachusetts have that power? Because Mitt Romney signed that authority into Massachusetts law. And that plan is the model for the one that Barack Obama signed into national law.
Can one Romney defender step up and help a conservative out? Explain why this awful anti-liberty mandate still gets Romney’s full-throated defense? Explain why Mitt Romney still likes his mandates?
Adding insult to the injury…
A decision is expected in a month on the Destitos’ fine, which stems from 2010, when unemployment forced them to find cheaper insurance. That same year taxpayers paid $35.7 million in Massachusetts to cover free emergency room visits for illegal immigrants.