Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Romney To Uninsured: Stop Crying Poor And Pay Up

I couldn't put it more succinctly than the man did himself: 'It's the ultimate conservative idea'. Mormon Massachusetts governor and, utterly uncoincidentally, just-acknowledged 2008 presidential hopeful Mitt Romney (and may I say, what kind of name is 'Mitt'? Was it a toss-up between that and 'Glove'? I hear tell his mother was all for 'Flowerpot', but was overruled for fear it would make him grow up gay) is proposing to solve the state's underinsurance woes by means of an 'individual mandate', whereby all Mass residents would be required to get health insurance, and face penalties if they didn't. Penalties including wage garnishing. (Presumably if the reason you have no insurance is because you have no wages, they would garnish your, er, food?)

The reasoning behind this humane strategy? 'No more "free riding," if you will, where an individual says: "I'm not going to pay, even though I can afford it. I'm not going to get insurance, even though I can afford it. I'm instead going to just show up and make the taxpayers pay for me"'. And isn't that so what the uninsured are saying? Aren't they all just sitting around in their palaces, going 'Well, I could get health insurance, or I could get another 72" plasma-screen TV to fill that gap on the rec-room wall. So what if the kids get meningitis this year? Surely The State Will Provide'?

Even 'Let 'Em Eat Lipitor' Romney can't avoid acknowledging that the actual cost of health insurance might just be a factor in people's not being able to have it, but don't worry, he's got an answer for that: 'Romney said he wants to make healthcare coverage less expensive by permitting private insurers to offer low-cost policies with scaled-back benefits.'

See how easy? If you've got inconvenient people with not-enough-money, just force them to spend some of that on not-enough-coverage! That way, you get to strike them off the official 'uninsured' count, making your governorship look like a model of public health efficiency and you a shinybright tough-love Presidential candidate. Never mind that insufficient coverage is pretty much guaranteed, given any major medical complication whatsoever, to drive them into bankruptcy. Personal bankruptcy isn't on this year's list of political hot issues, so who's going to look at those stats?

While Romney's claims that he can implement this plan without additional spending are already being questioned (a Blue Cross-Blue Shield Foundation study put the tariff for a similar plan at an additional $700 mil), our old friends the Repub-lickin' Dems are falling over themselves to endorse it. Senator Ted 'Huh-wha? What? Did Somebody Say Something? I Was Having Such A Nice Dream' Kennedy called it, without apparent irony, 'a healthy step forward', while one Phillip W. Johnston, chairman of both the state Democratic party and the Blue Cross-Blue Shield Foundation, enthused, 'I am delighted that Governor Mitt Romney is serious about providing affordable healthcare to all citizens of this state.' I just fucking bet you are, Insurance-Company-Chair-Boy.

The interesting thing about a plan like this is that it up-hackles both ends of the political spectrum. The people with consciences are, of course, up in arms at the grotesquely unfair assumptions and draconian consequences of a plan to require poor people to buy private health insurance or face even further economic hardship. At the other, brimstonier, end of the scale, the libertarians are asquawk over the coercive element. No less august a satanist body than the Cato Institute has already made a statement against it. It's only our dedicated public servants in the 'middle' who are going to line up behind such a patently abusive, hateful and doomed-to-fiery-failure proposal as this one.

As a colleague once said in a listserv debate over a similar proposal, you can outlaw starving, but is that really going to make people have enough food?

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