I’ve been sitting on two stories from the Boston Globe all week, trying to find just the right angle. And I think I’ve found it.

One of the hallmarks of Mitt Romney’s tenure as Massachusetts’ governor was the implementation of state-wide mandatory health insurance. Everyone who didn’t have health insurance would get it — or else. The state would subsidize insurance for those who lacked, and if that didn’t work, they’d fine you for having the gumption to go without.

I didn’t fault Romney for going along with the plan. With the Democrats holding 85% of the legislature and having a full head of steam for the idea, there wasn’t much he could do. He chose to “ride the tiger” and step out in front of the plan, trying to at least steer it a little instead of getting steamrolled by it.

I do fault him for touting it as one of his proudest accomplishments, however, because it’s turning into precisely the kind of disaster so many expected.

It turns out that the initial estimates of how many people would sign up for state-subsidized coverage were woefully low — it turns out that they’re actually a lot closer to the numbers the critics had predicted, not the backers. Gee, what a surprise. So the Commonwealth of Massachusetts finds itself having to scramble to find another $245 million — and that will just cover the rest of this year. For the next year, it’s projected to go up another $400 million over expectations..

Here’s the key sentence, the one line that sums up just why I find the whole matter so horrifying:

State and federal taxpayers are expected to bear nearly all of the additional cost.

Gee, thanks. And how much will that be?

Well, the article says that they hope Washington will pony up half the costs — by my reading, $325 million.

In order for Massachusetts to make sure that all its residents have health insurance, all of the rest of us who pay federal taxes get to kick in. And it wouldn’t be a Boston Globe story without the obligatory mention of the “undocumented:”

Illegal immigrants are not subject to the insurance mandate or eligible for state insurance, but they can qualify for free care.

“Free,” meaning they don’t have to pay for it. The state and the federal government will pick up the tab, or the hospital gets to eat the costs. Ain’t they generous?

So, if Massachusetts does come up with the extra $645 million, will that fix the problem?

Not hardly.

Here’s the key quote:

This idea of an individual mandate absent comprehensive reform – how to say this politely? – is nuts. It makes a social failure the problem of the individual. As Angell points out, “It gives the idea of government-sponsored universal coverage a bad name.”

No, government-sponsored universal coverage gives government-sponsored universal coverage a bad name, Mr. Angell.

It’s a truism that if you want to find the most cumbersome, most expensive, most inefficient, and most inhumane way of doing something, you put the federal government in charge of it.

This is the model that the Democrats want to use for the nation. Unfortunately, the federal government doesn’t have a higher authority to appeal to for a bailout, like Massachusetts does.

A little while ago, I quoted an observation about this whole issue without naming the source. It turns out that it was the always-quotable P. J. O’Rourke, who summed up the situation absolutely perfectly:

“If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.”

The Knucklehead of the Day award
State of the Union