Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Under the Microscope (Part 2)

In Part 1, we looked at some of the goals and assumptions underlying the Bay State’s new health care law, MassHealth.
Today, we’ll take a look “under the hood.”
Some time ago, Bob told us that, under the then-proposed regs, there’d be an annual fine of almost $300 per person for companies (with 11 or more employees) that fail to provide health coverage. As he pointed out, this is hardly more than a slap on the wrist ($300 a year fine for $4,000 a year or more premium). That, of course, is back in. Those of us familiar with the Law of Unintended Consequences are now wondering: what about cases where both spouses work outside the home? There are good and valid reasons to have one (family) policy. So, if a spouse waives off, is the $295 fine waived?
What do you think?
But wait, there’s more!
Introducing the "Commonwealth Health Care Connector" another new bureaucracy tasked with providing access to “affordable health insurance products” to individuals and small businesses. Folks with jobs will be able to buy their insurance through this Connector. The good news is that this would allow for portability of insurance as individuals move from one job to another. The bad news is, it’s set up as an authority under the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, and overseen by a separate, appointed board of private and public representatives.
As in: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.”
So that’s what’s in store for the group market. But what about the individual market? Well, we’ve got that covered, too:
The individual part of MassHealth requires that, as of July 1, 2007, all residents must obtain health insurance coverage, provided that there are affordable options available to them at that time. Every person who files an individual return for the tax year 2007 will be required to indicate whether or not they have had health insurance coverage, claimed an exemption or had a certificate issued by the "Connector." If the Department of Revenue determines that this requirement is not met, a tax will be assessed to the individual. A sliding “affordability scale” will be set annually to determine affordability. Sweet.
I’m reminded of a favorite old saw: “Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it.”
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