This week Massachusetts residents and businesses which don't comply with the Massachusetts mandate for health insurance will risk incurring a penalty. The Massachusetts government website explains that: “all Massachusetts residents age 18 and over must have health insurance. Every year, you will need to show proof of health insurance on your state income tax return. If you do not have health insurance, you will face a stiff tax penalty. For the 2007 tax year, this penalty is the loss of your personal exemption. In later years, it could be up to 50% of the amount of the cheapest health insurance plan offered through the Commonwealth Connector."
Expect to see more reports like this on the tricky issue this poses for Romney.(" 'It could [be] boiled down by his opponents that Mitt Romney passed some big government program and now people are being penalized for it,' said Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. 'It gets to the question of whether Romney is a true conservative.'")
If you are a Massachusetts business owner with eleven or more employees you have to figure out this and get your employees enrolled or face a $295 per employee fine. Individuals face a fine of $219 for not getting with the program. This neatly explains what health plans the government now approves in Massachusetts. But hey, you can get a subsidy for your health insurance if, for example, you have a family of 4 and an income up to $61,956. Roam around on the handy website for a bit and you begin to wonder– how much is this costing (this suggests $1.6B and rising) and how many government employees will be running this? One thing that caught my eye in the menu of benefits under the government approved and subsidized Commonwealth Care plans: abortions for just a $50 co-pay.
Now Romney to his credit is not proposing any of this be duplicated on a national level. (Although his spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom is quoted speaking approvingly of the individual mandate plan because it guarantees "no more free riding.") There is good reason to learn from the errors of Massachusetts, avoid schemes which coerce business and individuals and keep government out of the business of writing (or having interest groups) write insurance plans. Listen, if Hillary is elected Commonwealth Care will look like tame stuff.