Massachusetts Governor Announces Proposal To Make Health Insurance Compulsory
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) on Tuesday in a Boston Herald opinion piece detailed a proposal to make health insurance compulsory, the Herald reports. Romney said that the system would spread health care costs more evenly and argued that programs would be affordable to all.
There are an estimated 532,000 Massachusetts residents who lack health insurance, or approximately 9% of the population. Massachusetts' uninsured rate is the fourth lowest in the United States (Arends, Boston Herald, 6/21).
The plan would address the number of state residents without health insurance and the rising cost of insurance, "two major health care problems," Romney writes in a Herald opinion piece.
"If we can solve the first problem, we'll help solve the second because the cost of caring for the uninsured is passed on to everyone else," Romney writes, adding that his proposal is based on the ideas that private insurance is "better, cheaper and more efficient" than government-run health care; all residents have a responsibility to have health insurance and government will subsidize care for those who cannot afford it; and government must take action to help citizens become insured, including expanding consumer choice and creating incentives.
According to Romney, his proposal would:
- Enroll in Medicaid 106,000 eligible state residents who are not currently enrolled;
- Create Safety Net Care, a program that would be offered by commercial insurers and have "a full complement of health benefits," for approximately 150,000 low-income residents who earn one to three times the federal poverty level;
- Expand health insurance coverage to approximately 200,000 middle-income residents who are uninsured through a plan called Commonwealth Care, which he proposed earlier this year; and
- Offer incentives to employers to offer company insurance and prohibit employers from dropping workers from coverage
Experts were "decidedly mixed" on Romney's proposal, the Herald reports. John McDonough, executive director of advocacy group Health Care For All, said the proposal could be "a great step forward." McDonough added that problems could include the program's cost and employers who try to drop their workers' coverage.
Paul Wingle, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Hospital Association, said the issue of "free-riders" is not limited to individuals, noting that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts pays only about 70% of its mandated Medicaid bill.
Michael Cannon, director of health care policy at the Cato Institute, said, "It sounds like [Romney's] running for the (liberal) wing of the Democratic Party" (Boston Herald, 6/21).