Monday, January 18, 2010

Massachusetts Senate Race: A Referendum on Health Care Reform

Who would have guessed that a seat held by the Kennedys since the 1950s may find itself in the Republican column? A state wide seat in which registered Democrats out number Republicans 3 to 1? The news media is attributing these amazing turn of events -- with the Republican challenger leading in some polls -- to the general discontentment towards the party in power in both the White House and the Congress. Maybe, but I do not think so. I think it is much more personal than that.

One of the main reasons why voters are entertaining turning over one of its Senate seats to a Republican is that the people of Massachusetts have seen the future of socialized medicine and they know it doesn't work. They have been under a health care bill since 2006 that mirrors, in many respects, the Obama plan navigating through the Senate.

Forbes magazine has pointed out that many of the voters of Massachusetts are unhappy with the plan and for several good reasons. In an article titled "MAss Disaster," writer Sally Pipes exposes some of the ugly truths surrounding the socialized health care bill that has plagued the state.

Pipes reminds the reader of some words that have haunted then Governor Mitt Romney. "'Will Commonwealth care cost taxpayers more? No!' So wrote Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in November 2004, the economy then still in full bloom. 'Neither the state nor the taxpayers can afford to pay more.' She goes on to point out that "It's worth pondering ex-Gov. Romney's promises just over three years after he crossed partisan lines to reform health care in the Bay State. The Obama administration and congressional Democrats are modeling reform on the Massachusetts model, promoting bureaucratic health exchanges, increased restrictions on health insurance and vastly expanded taxpayer-subsidized care. Like Romney, they promise more coverage at lower cost, even as the evidence suggests otherwise."

So what do the people of Massachusetts think about the socialized health care experiment they have been a part of? The Forbes piece notes that "Only one in four considers the reform a success. Just one in five thinks it has made health care more affordable." I'm sure that many of the one-fourth work in government or they are among those that had no health insurance before and do not know quality care when they see it. They certainly are not seeing it in their own state.

A plan that was touted as a way to increase coverage without excessive government spending has had the exact opposite effect:

  • Medicaid has increased by 76,000 enrollees and the subsidized plans by 177,000.

  • Forty-six percent pay no premium, and

  • another 12% are highly subsidized.

  • A mere 19,000 have signed up for the non-subsidized private plans offered through the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector. These were the plans that Romney and others said would help contain costs.

To make matters worse, the bill is very costly. Most citizens are looking at spending 10 percent of their incomes on premiums or face impressive fines. So high, in fact, are the premiums, 20 percent of the state's residents have become exempt from the coverage. Many of these moved to Medicaid (as seen above), but at least 3 percent of the population are still without coverage. Instead of reducing costs, like the politicians promised as the bill navigated through the legislative process, it has significantly increased costs and has the government scrambling for revenues. Recently the state has taken a page out of Obama's book and has put a hit on smokers at the tune of $1 a pack.

So how will the state fight the growth in health care costs? The same way socialist health care systems have fought such runaway costs for years; through a bureaucracy that will cut doctors' income, moving patients into manage care, and the establishment of price controls. In other words, through the development of the same type of rationed care that dominates much of the world today. These are the exact type of approaches Massachusetts is pursuing.

The people of Massachusetts already know this type of health care does not work and that is why they are so close to electing a Republican like Scott Brown to the US Senate.
Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist whose articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media. Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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