The Obama-Kennedy health plan is modeled after the Massachusetts plan, which, when adopted, many applauded as innovative and destined for success. In fact, the Massachusetts plan has been a massive failure and is a model for what not to do.
It has increased costs. It has wasted taxpayer dollars. It has limited patients' choice. It has hurt small business. It has failed to achieve its goal of universal coverage. Most objectionable, it has created shortages and waiting lists.
Promoters predicted that the Massachusetts plan would lower health-care costs, but -- so far -- costs are moving in the opposite direction. State government spending on health-care programs in Massachusetts has increased by 42 percent since the plan was adopted in 2006 and currently is 33 percent above the national average.
Advocates promised that the Massachusetts plan would make health insurance more affordable, but according to a Cato study, insurance premiums have been increasing at nearly double the national average: 7.4 percent in 2007, 8 percent to 12 percent in 2008, and an expected 9 percent increase this year. Health insurance in Massachusetts costs an average of $16,897 for a family of four, compared to a national average of $12,700.
The Massachusetts plan incorporates a system of middle-class subsidies called Commonwealth Care to help pay for insurance for families with incomes up to 300 percent of poverty level ($66,150 for a family of four) and also expanded eligibility for Medicaid.
The Massachusetts Connector, a new bureaucracy that was supposed to increase patient choice, has become an overbearing regulatory arm of government that has decreased competition by prescribing benefits insurance must offer. The Connector is evidently unpopular with patients, since only 18,000 people have used the Connector to buy insurance during the past three years.
The Connector has imposed regulations that add to the cost of insurance and limit consumer choice, such as requiring prescription-drug coverage and preventive-care services, restricting high-deductible policies and putting limits on annual or per-sickness policies. Complying with the Connector's rules means changing from your current insurance that you like.
The costs to the taxpayers are rising, too, and one tax increase has not satisfied the appetite of the hungry plan. The prospect of huge deficits has elicited discussion of cuts in reimbursements to providers and the imposition of a "global budget," which is a euphemism for rationing.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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