Well, it’s been about a year since Massachusetts mandated that everyone get health insurance, and how’s it working out?
In a move that no one foresaw (except those with a modicum of common sense), numerous businesses that found themselves facing hefty bills for covering employees they had not had to cover before. And some of them found some truly novel ways to avoid — or minimize — the hit.
After all, when a business faces a new set of expenses, who could possibly expect them to do all they could within the law to minimize their costs? Inconceivable!
One company had been offering full coverage for all its salaried employees, and picked up the full tab. Now by law they have to offer coverage for all full-time employees, and they all have to have access to the same plans. So now anyone who wants coverage has to pay half the bill — including those who’d been covered 100% before.
Another saw that companies with fewer than 11 employees were exempt, so it split itself into a bunch of smaller companies, each with 10 or fewer employees.
One company ran the numbers and saw that the fines for not offering insurance was less than the premiums would have been — so they chose to take the hit.
Another “perverse incentive” was for companies to attempt to help their workers by denying them access to the company’s health plan. Under the law, anyone who could sign up for insurance through their work — no matter how high the premiums — was ineligible for the state-sponsored programs. So one company jacked up the minimum hours needed to qualify for access from 20 hours a week to 30 — because it knew that many of its employees simply could not afford the premiums, but would not be eligible for the state programs.
The original idea behind Massachusetts’ “health insurance for all” plan was a fine, noble one. It was also colossally stupid.
First of all, there are valid reasons why someone would choose to go without health insurance. A lot of young people, for example, are healthy and would rather spend their money on other things — or save it.
More importantly, they don’t have to have a valid reason. “I don’t want it” should be a perfectly valid answer to most attempts by the government to “help” people.
Yes, for the vast majority of people, having health insurance is a good thing. Lord knows I’d be in a world of trouble without mine. But attempting to ram it down everyone’s throat in a “one size fits all” solution is just going to cause far more problems than it’s worth.
I keep wondering at what point insurance companies will simply decide that doing business in Massachusetts (which is rapidly becoming “doing business WITH Massachusetts,” as the commonwealth intervenes more and more) is more hassle than it’s worth. What then will they do?