Archive for February, 2010

Healthcare for the Average Massachusetts Citizen

I consider myself to be an ordinary citizen of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  I founded a small technology business, which may qualify as a startup (if we weren’t four years old).  With all the rumblings about healthcare in Washington D.C. and this state, I find myself asking what does it mean to me. In thinking about that, I find myself reflecting on the political climate and politicians in general.

If you expect a happy and rosy picture to be painted for you, stop reading now.  There is largely nothing that any government program has done to help me, as an average citizen or small business.  Healthcare is as expensive as ever.  The Mass Health Connector is largely ineffective.

Let’s start with Massachusetts’ much heralded healthcare program – the Mass Health Connector.  The “employers” section of the web site provides health plans from several insurance companies, including some of the big names.   The first problem I encounter is that the rates offered on the Health Connector web site are higher then the rates we currently pay when comparing similar plans.

I pointed this out to the folks at the Mass Health Connector.  The customer service was quite prompt.  They responded to my email inquiry within minutes.  I was referred to the Insurance Partnership. This organization “removes many of the financial obstacles to health insurance”.  I believe they may reimburse a small business’ health insurance costs to some degree.

The second problem is qualifying for the Insurance Partnership.  The company must pay for at least 50% of insurance costs and the employee’s salary (for a family of one) must be under $32,508.  The cheapest healthcare option on the Health Connector web site was about $260/month.  I used the second cheapest, Tufts, because there was no information regarding the cheapest plan.  Tufts cost $314/mo and has a maximum out of pocket expense of $5000/year.  From my perspective, it seems unlikely that someone taking home roughly $2,000/mo (in net pay) can afford 50% of the premium ($157/mo) in healthcare, which still has various co-payments.

Massachusetts has failed to address the primary issue – the high cost of healthcare.  What have they done?  Mandated that all residents purchase healthcare coverage.  For those who already had difficulty affording healthcare, it is still unaffordable.  The plans that are offered include out-of-pocket expenses and co-payments that are probably still unaffordable to most.

What is the upshot off all of this?  A new, and likely costly, bureaucracy is in place that mandates health insurance.  It may benefit a small number of people who were on the border of being able to afford insurance before.  And this program only costs about $800M/year.

Being simple minded, I have to ask if there is a simpler solution – one that is less costly.  Why couldn’t existing programs, like Medicare, Medicaid, and Mass Health, have lowered their requirements to qualify more people?

As these thoughts settle in, I have to reflect on the politics of the situation.  I can’t help but feel that we, as citizens and voters, were manipulated.  Could the ultimate goal of healthcare effort been to bolster Mitt Romney in his bid for president?  He is a republican and such programs are distasteful to republicans.  But the healthcare plan was seen as a pioneering venture nationwide and was likely beneficial to his campaign.  Implementation of the plan actually fell in the lap of the next governor, Deval Patrick, whose politics seem more in line with the plan.  Of course, who knows what his political aspirations are.

For those looking to Massachusetts as having a model for healthcare, all I can offer is the experience of an ordinary citizen.  There seem to be few benefits and the program seems largely ineffective.  It may have benefits to a small number of residents, but is it worth the cost and could less costly (and existing) options have been applied to them?

NOTE: Please write if you feel you have benefited from the Health Connector.  I would like to hear success stories.

February 9, 2010 at 3:32 am Leave a comment


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