Speechwriter for Obama, Edwards can’t get health insurance in Massachusetts

posted at 2:55 pm on October 8, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

For ObamaCare advocates, Massachusetts is the Nirvana of government-managed health insurance.  The state adopted everything they have pushed on a national level: individual mandates, guaranteed issue, universal coverage, and more.  Unfortunately, former Obama and John Edwards speechwriter Wendy Button has discovered that all of this government intervention comes at a cost — one that directly hits her pocketbook:

In the past, I paid attention to the health care debate as a speechwriter who prepared speeches, talking points, op-eds, and debate prep material on the topic at different times for John Edwards, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and others. Now, I’m paying attention because I’m a citizen up the creek without a paddle.

In D.C., I had a policy with a national company, an HMO, and surprisingly I was very happy with it. I had a fantastic primary care doctor at Georgetown University Hospital. As a self-employed writer, my premium was $225 a month, plus $10 for a dental discount.

In Massachusetts, the cost for a similar plan is around $550, give or take a few dollars. My risk factors haven’t changed. I didn’t stop writing and become a stunt double. I don’t smoke. I drink a little and every once in a while a little more than I should. I have a Newfoundland dog. I am only 41. There has been no change in the way I live my life except my zip code — to a state with universal health care.

Massachusetts has enacted many of the necessary reforms being talked about in Washington. There is a mandate for all residents to get insurance, a law to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition, an automatic enrollment requirement, and insurance companies are no longer allowed to cap coverage or drop people when they get sick because they forgot to include a sprained ankle back in 1989 on their application.

And what did that do to premiums?  Button has to pay a whopping 144% increase in premiums over her costs in DC, not exactly a city known for its low cost of living in the first place.  In order to provide coverage with all of the mandates Massachusetts imposes, health insurers had to more than double premiums to meet the costs.

Nor is this the only such example of economic disaster that government-mandated coverage generates.  Earlier this summer, we looked at Maine’s DirigoChoice, an Orwellian term for a program full of mandates on individuals and insurers.  The combination resulted in premiums over 300% more expensive than in neighboring New Hampshire, and in an operating deficit so large that it no longer can accept all of the applications by uninsured Maine residents.

Button still hasn’t quite figured out the problem, although she’s coming close:

If Washington won’t go for a simple clean move to a system like Medicare for All, then it needs to do one reform, one new law, at a time — not with a 1,000 page bill where strange things can hide. Line up the 80 percent of things we agree on and vote one at a time to change pre-existing conditions, cut that $500 billion in Medicare’s “waste, fraud, and abuse,” create meaningful lawsuit reform, and add some real competition to insurance companies whether it’s a public option or a pilot exchange program. Show the country that this is possible with lower premiums and more efficiency and then go for the tough stuff. Critics like me want something done right because we actually are up the creek without a paddle.

She’s nibbling at it.  The only part she doesn’t quite understand is that costs don’t go away just because we shove everyone into a single-payer system.  She may not have to pay premiums any longer, but all of those costs get paid in higher taxes and rationing of care.  Button still wants a public option and mandated coverage, even though that’s what has made insurance so expensive for her in Massachusetts and for everyone in Maine as well.  Did that government “competition” make private insurance less expensive, or more expensive?

Oh, let’s not always see the same hands.

If we want more competition between insurers, then remove the barriers to interstate sales.  Start working on tort reform, and dismantle the tax incentives that keep the third-party payers from interfering with the rational market force of pricing on supply and demand.  Move insurance to its proper place, indemnifying against serious loss, and allow expanded use of HSAs to promote a retail model for normal care that encourages competition and the growth of supply.

Button almost has this figured out.  Too bad she didn’t start getting a clue while she was writing speeches for Edwards and Obama.

Update: 144% increase, not 244%.

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Bleeds Brains!

Gob on October 8, 2009 at 4:49 PM

and they still have the same amount of people going to the er because of lack of doctors!

rob verdi on October 8, 2009 at 4:59 PM

What I’m suggesting is radical ignorant, for sure. I don’t think the American insurance industry has have a smidge of credibility left.



I covered this the other day…you don’t think, period.

xblade on October 8, 2009 at 5:07 PM

Oh, the irony!

The Massachusetts Tea Party network will be holding an event on the Boston Common on Saturday, October 17 (12:00 – 2:00 PM at the Bandstand for those local) featuring speakers who can inform us of the shortcomings of “Commonwealth Care”. This is not he model we should be adopting. Premiums are up 12%, sales tax is up 25% and the number of uninsured is only down by 2%. It is an abysmal failure – the Liberals running this state have perverted the entire program. It is such a fiscal disaster, they just booted 28,000 LEGAL IMMIGRANTS out of the program.

If you’re in New England, come to Boston on the 17th for a “Real Healthcare Reform” rally and stay for the anti-military march afterwards. It is promising to be an “enlightening” afternoon.

gopmom on October 8, 2009 at 5:21 PM

Given her professional background as an Obama and Edwards speechwriter, she should have had a tingle going up her leg over the opportunity to personally share the wealth, close the gap between the two Americas, and subsidize healthcare freeloaders.

bgoldman on October 8, 2009 at 5:21 PM

I should find this funny. But I don’t. I can not believe how incredibly stupid these people are.

ORconservative on October 8, 2009 at 6:09 PM

i don’t understand gopmom’s post above: there is going to be an anti-military march?

ma’am: my town has 1,200 people. in this week’s little newspaper, there is picture of flag drapped casket coming home from Afghanistan & a story of boy who just returned from 2d tour in Iraq.

and you have the audacity to march against these patriots?

kelley in virginia on October 8, 2009 at 6:18 PM

She also has not figured out that her premium is so high because it is based on the state’s determination of what she can afford based on her income.

As a business owner, we applied for our family. Our policy through my husband’s former employer was a Cadillac policy costing us $1300 a month for 3 healthy people under 40. The Commonwealth policy closest to this was $1200 – because of income. Drop the income below 100K, it dropped to $850 – below 70K, down to $550. Of course, after leaving corp to go it on his own, we no longer had the high income. But the state determines based on previous year’s income. So the newly unemployed have a big problem – no coverage yet high premiums.

The other stat I did not include is that the poorest recipients – the ones who do not pay a premium at all – are having their care rationed in 2010 budget because of state’s precarious financial position. Oh, and it is still cheaper to go uninsured than it is to buy coverage from the (only!) four companies that sell policies through Commonwealth Care. It is a disaster all ’round.

gopmom on October 8, 2009 at 6:28 PM

I pay $1068/year in Massachusetts fines because my insurance coverage is in Rhode Island and it’s not kosher for Massover.

For $440/month, I can get approved Mass-certified insurance that gives me a $2000 deductible per year, $25 off my office visits (no, not a $25 co-pay, just $25 off my $110 office visit) no dental and no vision.

$232/month in Rhode Island insurance gets me a $20 co-pay and $1000 deductible, a not-so-hot dental plan and a standard vision plan. And it’s worth it.

And if you ever vote for Mitt Romney for *anything* I hope you get hit with something the size and speed of the NASA satellite that’s hitting the Moon tomorrow.

DarthBrooks on October 8, 2009 at 6:29 PM

FYI for those obsessed with Romney.

It is the same for all insurance here in MA, not just health insurance. for example, those commercials for Geico, Allstate or Esurance for auto insurance. Go to those websites and try to get a quote. You CAN NOT get one for MASS.

This issue predates anything Romney did and really everyone who wants to pin all the issues of MASS onto him need to implement some critical thinking skills and get a grasp of the political environment.

Resolute on October 8, 2009 at 7:41 PM

Wait, I am really confused.

“We all know that car insurance isn’t real anymore”. Huh?

Is that like the 75 phantom amendments to which Boehner referred last night?

margategop517 on October 8, 2009 at 11:07 PM

Kelly in Virginia: I’m sure that GOPMom was not endorsing the anti-military march, but rather making an ironic comment on the sad state of affairs in the Commonwealth.

Roxeanne de Luca on October 9, 2009 at 1:11 AM