Advocates of so-called “universal” health care often cite the “fragmentation” of the status quo as reason enough to increase taxes and fines so that everybody has health insurance – whether we like what’s offered or not. And, they have a point: the employer-based health care system lets a lot of people fall through the cracks.
Why should you automatically lose your health insurance when you lose your job? (you can elect to continue coverage for up to 18 months under COBRA, but because you likely had no idea how much that coverage cost, it’s unlikely you’ve saved enough money to pay the premiums. Plus COBRA has the worst incentives for adverse selection of any health insurance market in the U.S.) And why is the U.S the only developed country to throw you out of whatever health plan you have into a government plan when you turn 65, no matter how happy you are with what you had when you were 64?
The consumer-directed answer is to allow an individual to keep his health plan as long as he wishes, (throughout his lifetime, if he so chooses), and we seek to achieve this through tax reform and deregulation. Others, such as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, have a different answer: mandatory coverage with penalties for those who don’t comply.
This blog is chock-a-block with criticisms of the Massachusetts health reform’s Commonwealth Connector, but none written by residents of the Bay State. As we have about one month to go before submitting our tax returns, let’s spare a silent minute for our brothers and sisters in Massachusetts, who now have to spend (who knows how many) minutes filling out the four-page Schedule HC, ably supported by seven pages of instructions.
Now, if you are a Bay Stater, be careful not to be caught out! If you live in Berkshire, Franklin, or Hampshire County, married with no dependents, and aged between 27 and 29, the affordability threshold is $420 per month, but if you live in Bristol, Essex, Hampden, Middlesex, Norfolk, Suffolk, or Worcester County it’s only $370 per month.
I think there may be an income cut-off there too, but truth be told I got pretty confused by the middle of the third page of the seven-page instructions. Well, anyway, I live in California so I’m not going to get too stressed out. I’m sure you’ll get the hang of it.
Good luck! Isn’t it wonderful when the government makes health care (and taxes, too) less “fragmented”?