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%.