Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Crunch Time In Massachusetts

The Massachusetts health plan, which relies heavily on harsh mandates on individuals to purchase insurance and employers to offer such insurance, is running into more financial trouble.

Because the state requires that the mandatory insurance coverage include numerous items that patients don't want (and would therefore not be viable in a free market), these policies are unnecessarily expensive. Then, in order to make the mandates politically palatable to the poor, the state is subsidizing their costs. So this system does nothing to alleviate the "cost-shifting" from the paying patients to the non-paying patients, it merely channels it through the state government. As a result, the November 18, 2007 Boston Globe reports that it will cost the state millions of dollars:
Success could put health plan in the red

Enrollment in the state's new subsidized health plan is growing so quickly that the state could face a funding gap as large as $147 million by the end of the fiscal year, according to a state projection.

...But the state would have to find ways to pay the insurance bills for so many more people. Options include appropriating more money, using funds allocated to care for those without insurance, or cutting extra payments to certain hospitals that were included in the law mandating insurance.
Based on the experiences in other states and other countries, price controls and rationing are only a small step away.

Furthermore, the Massachusetts plan depends on the ordinary, healthy people being willing to subsidize the system by purchasing plans that they neither need nor want. And those ordinary citizens are refusing to do so, according to the November 9, 2007 Boston Business Journal:
Thousands balk at health law sign-up mandate

With just seven weeks left until 2008, tens of thousands of Massachusetts residents -- up to 100,000 or more by some estimates -- have yet to sign up for insurance plans created as part of the state's historic health care reform law.

This has left insurers falling far short of expectations for signing up new customers, as countless people -- intentionally or otherwise -- come perilously close to risking fines and escalating penalties if they don't obtain insurance by the end of the year...
When a government violates the rights of individuals, insurers, and providers to contract amongst themselves free of government interference for their mutual benefit, these economic problems are the inevitable result.

Colorado should not adopt a plan based on health care insurance mandates that is already failing in Massachusetts.