Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Massachusetts Health Insurance Proposal Is Bad Idea

Let me begin by staying that I think that Massachusetts residents are just as smart as residents of any state in the nation. That said, why do they continue to enact and implement what can only be regarded as “lunacy legislation”? The latest, and perhaps, most distressing, is the recently passed Health Care Amendment. For the first time ever in the U.S., according to this legislation, all state residents would be required to have health insurance -- dubbed an individual mandate. To quote one advocate, “The Health Care Amendment creates that constitutional anchor for affordable, comprehensive, equitable coverage.” It certainly does that, but it is quite likely to retard the state’s already anemic economy.

Between 2000 and 2005, only two states grew their population more slowly than Massachusetts, North Dakota and West Virginia. Furthermore during this same time span, Massachusetts ranked number 31 in terms of state per capita income growth. Seems as though the state’s already liberal legislative environment does not blend well with competitive markets.

The Republican governor of the state, Mitt Romney, has been adamantly opposed to funding the mandate with a new payroll tax on businesses. Despite his rhetoric, Romney indicated that he had no major objections to a proposed $295-per-employee charge on employers who don't provide insurance, a component designed to raise about $45 million a year, and the mandate that all companies with more than 10 employees provide health insurance for their workers. Romney said he considered the assessment or a “fee”, not a tax and the mandate just good business. I suppose this nuance will serve him well in his run for the Republican nomination for President. Maybe calling a tax a fee works in Massachusetts, but I think such nonsense will be soundly rejected by the rest of the nation. At least this serves to define what certain elements of the press mean by a “Moderate Republican.”

Of course this is not the first time Massachusetts has attempted to link working with health insurance. However, the state’s earlier efforts were fruitless. A state mandated employer coverage in 1988 termed, Massachusetts Universal Health Care Law, was repealed before it was ever implemented. This latest effort will likely meet the same fate.

As stated by Senate President Robert Travaglini, “The eyes of the nation are on us.” Unfortunately for Massachusetts, Mr. Travaglini is correct.


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