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Massachusetts Makes Health Insurance Mandatory

kdawson posted about 7 years ago | from the no-sickos-here dept.

The Almighty Buck 779

Iron Condor writes "Massachusetts is the first state to require its residents to secure health insurance, a plan designed to get as close as practically possible to statewide universal health care. Presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney originally introduced the idea in 2004. Effective July 1, 2007, the law, which uses federal and state tax dollars, is aimed at making health insurance affordable to all residents of the state, including low-income populations. Those who fall below the federal poverty line may be eligible for health care at no cost."

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779 comments

Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (5, Insightful)

Ckwop (707653) | about 7 years ago | (#19741249)

You know, a few years back I was in San Diego and went to Toorcon (excellent conference by the way - please support it) and I got in to this discussion late at night on socialised health care.

For those that don't know, the United Kingdom spends eighty billion pounds a year on healthcare, funded directly through taxes. His central point was: "Don't you feel like you're being ripped off paying for the health care of jobless people when you're busting a gut earning a living?"

I think it's an important question and one that needs answering if the United States is going to replace their broken healthcare system. My answer is simply that even ignoring the people who don't work, it is still a better deal for you if you have socialised health care.

Free market economies work best when prices are elastic; that is, where changes in price affect the demand for the product. This allows price to signal the level of available supply and prevent shortages of goods. The problem with healthcare is that it is not elastic. If I have cancer, a broken leg or some other ailment I have to get it fixed - regardless of the cost.

In a profit making company, this means raising the price indefinitely sees no reduction in demand. This leads to an ever increasing cost that outstrips inflation. The American system compounds this because a lot of white-collar workers get insurance plans from their companies. Companies have deeper pockets than an individual ever could so the prices increase still further!

Socialised health care delivers better value for money because of the enormous purchasing power of the government. The NHS can purchase millions of shots in one go. That allows you to hammer the drug companies on price and share the proceeds with the population. In the American system, it is you against the drug company and you are needy; you are willing to pay anything to fix yourself. In short you're screwed.

There are also other economic benefits. Heathier and less desperate neighbours translates to less crime and increase productivity. It pays to insure that the daughter of a crack-addict prostitute get first class health care and education - if only to increase their chances of escaping the poverty trap and contribute more to the economy.

It also pays because you can remove the inefficent insurance companies. If everybody is covered then there is no need to have a bureaucracy to decide if a person is covered.

Socialised health care is not evil communism, it is a practical solution to the health care of your nation. I don't see anybody complaining about the socialised road, garabage collection, fire, police and military. When you trust the security of your nation to the government, why do you not trust your healthcare to them too?

I'd I've seen the benefits first hand. When a friend of mine, at the age of 20 developed Lukemia, put his Computer Science course on hold, checked in to the local hospital and began his treatment straight away. He was cured and back in education the following year. I fear that had he born in the United States, he would not have been able to continue with his studies, in fact, he probably would have been bankrupt. Socialised healthcare not only save his life, but his future.

Simon

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (2, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | about 7 years ago | (#19741293)

i've said it before - capitalism is not applicable to everything, becuase not everything has a price.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (2)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 7 years ago | (#19741317)

And yet everything has a value.

 

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (2, Insightful)

rxmd (205533) | about 7 years ago | (#19741351)

And yet everything has a value.

When talking about the cost of healthcare, it doesn't help much to know that if you can't quantify it. What's the value of not having a broken leg? Your daughter not having measles? Your other daughter not having bone marrow cancer?

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (0)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 7 years ago | (#19741569)

When talking about the cost of healthcare, it doesn't help much to know that if you can't quantify it.
Of course you can quantify it.

Quantifying the value is always an individual, personal decision, no matter what you're buying. In the examples you provide the quantity is probably very high, perhaps even everything you own and more, the value of that healthcare to you may be worth the rest of your life in debt. In which case I recommend mitigating the risk.

 

Nope. It's 105 billion pounds. (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 7 years ago | (#19741295)

For those that don't know, the United Kingdom spends eighty billion pounds a year on healthcare, funded directly through taxes.
Almost quarter of a trillion dollars. Per year.

 

Re:Nope. It's 105 billion pounds. (2, Informative)

Zelos (1050172) | about 7 years ago | (#19741379)

Or about £1750 per year per person, or £3500 per taxpayer. How does that compare to health insurance costs in the US?

Re:Nope. It's 105 billion pounds. (3, Informative)

DrHyde (134602) | about 7 years ago | (#19741523)

It compares pretty well [commonwealthfund.org] . Two years ago the US spent (in nice round numbers) USD5200 per person on healthcare. At current exchange rates, that's GBP2600-ish. Using a two year old exchange rate it was GBP4200.

Re:Nope. It's 105 billion pounds. (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 7 years ago | (#19741651)

Then of course you add private health insurance on top to bypass the waiting lists.

 

Re:Nope. It's 105 billion pounds. (1)

durkster (936310) | about 7 years ago | (#19741477)


A mere quarter of a trillion dollars versus the costs to date in Iraq ?

The real cost of a universal healthcare system such as the NHS versus the current US system is that the *potential* for quality care is higher in a system where anything is possible IF you can pay the bill.

The NHS style system won't always offer the most expensive lifesaving drugs for example.

Of course YMMV country to country but in a system where universal healthcare is government funded then limits will be imposed.

No countries government can afford to provide the most leading edge healthcare for all patients without limits.

Re:Nope. It's 105 billion pounds. (1)

Zelos (1050172) | about 7 years ago | (#19741503)

Countries with socialised health care generally also have private systems as well, for those that can afford it.

Re:Nope. It's 105 billion pounds. (1)

durkster (936310) | about 7 years ago | (#19741691)

Sorry, missed your post whilst typing and getting coffee.

Yes, and although the erstwhile poster from the land of wallabies feels that socialised care on offer in his country ( emergency care versus elective type ) is better, this is certainly not the case everywhere.

For example say you need Chemotherapy and your country forces you have the treatment in a foreign country (alone) as the local cancer treatment clinics are overloaded and or underfunded.

That is not something I would consider a good experience for a patient to have to face on top on the prospect of death.

Re:Nope. It's 105 billion pounds. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19741745)

For example say you need Chemotherapy and your country forces you have the treatment in a foreign country (alone) as the local cancer treatment clinics are overloaded and or underfunded.

WHAT? That's almost like asking how you would feel if your house was on fire and all the firemen were busy fighting martians.

Re:Nope. It's 105 billion pounds. (1)

durkster (936310) | about 7 years ago | (#19741543)

Which is why private insurers still do good business in a market where free health care exists.

People who can afford it don't want to go on waiting lists if they are in a life threatening situation.

I am saying this as this does occur in public funded health care, for example where they fail to attract sufficient professionals to perform the required duties as they can't afford to pay private health care employment rates.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (1)

Okind (556066) | about 7 years ago | (#19741303)

Free market economies work best when prices are elastic; that is, where changes in price affect the demand for the product. This allows price to signal the level of available supply and prevent shortages of goods. The problem with healthcare is that it is not elastic. If I have cancer, a broken leg or some other ailment I have to get it fixed - regardless of the cost.

How very true. You failed to list another aspect though: competition.

Given the sheer size of the insurance companies, costs can be kept low through competition.

Given that same size of the insurance companies though, consumers cannot count on competition to lower their costs. And that is the reason why your end conclusion is correct: there is no free market because there are no elastic prices, nor is there enough competition.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (4, Insightful)

Don_dumb (927108) | about 7 years ago | (#19741563)

I reckon the main problem is that the competition is to reduce costs instead of administering better healthcare. The result is that insurance companies are trying to *not* treat their customers as opposed to treating them in the most efficient or effective manner.

If the US is using another country's example of how to improve healthcare systems, perhaps France is a better example than the UK. Our NHS is idealistic and does have problems (high expectations being one of them), sometimes we end up sending patients to France for treatment and politicians here use our EU neighbours as examples of how they could improve the NHS.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (2, Insightful)

durkster (936310) | about 7 years ago | (#19741639)

If the US is using another country's example of how to improve healthcare systems, perhaps France is a better example than the UK.
France may indeed be the PERFECT model for the USA, but could you really imagine the current white house taking any advice from France - ever ?

MRI's must be selling like hotcakes in the USA, I imagine their proliferation is assisting health care costs to rise in the USA by large amounts.

People are living longer; Why ?

More expensive drugs and procedures and hi-tech equipment.

I reject the notion that people are living FAR healthier lifestyles nowadays and propose that this corrolates to the higher cost of health insurance.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19741707)

"Given the sheer size of the insurance companies, costs can be kept low through competition."

The costs of an individual company have to be kept low in a competitive system, however the overall efficiency of the system can, paradoxically, be low due to the overall level of replication of services and potential overcapacity required.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (2, Insightful)

pytheron (443963) | about 7 years ago | (#19741335)

A government that employs socialised healthcare is investing in the countries future also. The majority of people that will be cured under this system will go on to pay taxes for the rest of their life, increase population etc. which brings in more tax payers. It's a long term gain, but a gain nonetheless.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (1)

kripkenstein (913150) | about 7 years ago | (#19741345)

Universal health care may indeed be the future for the US, but this isn't necessarily the way to get there.

By starting down the path to universal health care in a single state, you are setting yourself up for failure. If businesses are forced to pay for the new benefits, some of them may move to neighboring states. And if the overall quality of health service rises for the non-rich, then many of them will move into Massachusetts, burdening the system.

The only way for universal health care to work is to change things at the federal level.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (1)

redcane (604255) | about 7 years ago | (#19741633)

Of course if businesses are forced to pay for the new benefits, some of them may move to neighboring countries.... I think you may be overestimating the mobility of things. Services still need to be supplied to the people living where they are. Obviously this is not going to keep mail order, and other distance working companies in the state.

Prewritten statement? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19741355)

The story was posted at 4:58, you posted this at 5:06. Something prepared for the occasion?

This was not a troll. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19741443)

In my view it is impossible in eight minutes to read the article (to see the issues covered) and type out the post as provided.

In other words, it is in my view highly unlikely this was a 'spontaneous reaction', but a pre-written statement that was posted because it fitted the occasion.

If I had pointed this out about one of several other topics - say, a topic that pointed out the benefits of DRM and the loss that was caused to a specific media producer from piracy, and instantly got a very long and well-written reply in support of DRM - I strongly doubt it would have been moderated 'troll'.

Re:This was not a troll. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19741487)

Have you seen the article? It's not that long. A 1 minute read?

Re:This was not a troll. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19741535)

That leaves between 6 and (a theoretical maximum of) 7 minutes for writing, assuming that the first poster saw the post and started typing immediately when it was posted with no overhead. I could not have written an article with structure, spelling and style like that in six minutes, and I don't know very many who could have.

That said, I don't mind prewritten statements posted on to a topic, I just prefer them to be mentioned as such: 'here is something I wrote on the healthcare sector a few months ago in response to xyz'.

Re:This was not a troll. (1)

phoenix321 (734987) | about 7 years ago | (#19741531)

You realize that subscribing Slashdot viewers get to see a story early? Several minutes up to half an hour earlier than everyone else, so they have more than enough time to prepare a comment if they want to sit around pressing F5 once in a while...

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (5, Insightful)

stirz (839003) | about 7 years ago | (#19741357)

I mostly agree with you, Simon. Isn't it strange that, on one hand, the US spend money on humanitarian goals to help the Third World to fight hunger and desease but, on the other hand, lots of their own people don't even have access to proper medication?

Social, tax funded, insurances for everyone to back anyone who gets unemployed, injured, seriously ill or who gets too old to work, are the prime achievements that make me feel secure here in Europe. In most aspects, European countries imitate concepts coming from the US, but when it comes to healthcare I think the US should have a close look at their friends in the Old World.

Regards

stirz
(please excuse my bad English)

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (0)

TodMinuit (1026042) | about 7 years ago | (#19741363)

My answer is simply that even ignoring the people who don't work, it is still a better deal for you if you have socialised health care.
No, it's not. If the socialized care is inadequate -- and it will be (see other countries systems) -- to get decent care you'll have to go private, paying it out of your own pocket. This means you end up paying double: Once by the increase in taxes, and the second when you go private.

In other words, the only people who are helped by socialized care are the poor, who already have government provided health insurance. Middle class and upper class are hurt.

Free market economies work best when prices are elastic; that is, where changes in price affect the demand for the product. This allows price to signal the level of available supply and prevent shortages of goods. The problem with healthcare is that it is not elastic. If I have cancer, a broken leg or some other ailment I have to get it fixed - regardless of the cost.

In a profit making company, this means raising the price indefinitely sees no reduction in demand. This leads to an ever increasing cost that outstrips inflation. The American system compounds this because a lot of white-collar workers get insurance plans from their companies. Companies have deeper pockets than an individual ever could so the prices increase still further!
If this was true, anyone could start a hospital that offers the same quality at lower prices and get huge business. By your logic, food prices should be out of control, but they're not.

In other words, the free market handles it just fine.

Socialised health care delivers better value for money because of the enormous purchasing power of the government.
You think this is good? The U.S. defense system is gouged by pretty much every defense contractor out there. This happens anytime government money is involved. This means run away government spending.

It pays to insure that the daughter of a crack-addict prostitute get first class health care and education - if only to increase their chances of escaping the poverty trap and contribute more to the economy.
Yeah, and it'd pay to legalize drugs and prostitution, but it's not going to happen. Furthermore, putting more citizens on the governments teet, eliminating the need for them to take care of themselves, to take resposbility for their actions, will hurt a country in the long run.

Socialised health care is not evil communism, it is a practical solution to the health care of your nation.
No, it's not.

I don't see anybody complaining about the socialised road, garabage collection, fire, police and military.
I am.

When you trust the security of your nation to the government, why do you not trust your healthcare to them too?
Because the people best to defend a government is the government. The people best to entrust with my health is myself. Removing choice from the equation is ludacris.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19741399)

In Australia the socialised care (Medicare) is superior to the private care. It's a saying here that if you want to stay in a hotel go to a private hospital and if you want to get better go to a public hospital. Private hospitals have shorter waiting lists for elective procedures though: the ones that fix things that are painful but won't kill you.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (2, Informative)

CmdrGravy (645153) | about 7 years ago | (#19741497)

Agreed, I think that most people who use private hospitals here in the UK do so for that kind of surgery as well. For serious life threatening problems it's the NHS all the way.

If people wish to pay for private healthcare to supplement what they can get on the NHS I don't see that as either a problem or a failing of the NHS, it simply means people who can afford to pay for it can get things like hip replacements more quickly and reduces the strain on the NHS allowing those who can't pay to also get their new hips more quickly. Those who can't afford private healthcare will still get the same procedure but they may have to wait a little longer. A lot of people argue this is unfair and creates a two tier system for the haves and have nots, which it does, but basically life is unfair and the current system is the most effective way we have for ensuring everyone is looked after.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (2, Insightful)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about 7 years ago | (#19741555)

A lot of people argue this is unfair and creates a two tier system for the haves and have nots, which it does, but basically life is unfair and the current system is the most effective way we have for ensuring everyone is looked after.
Beyond that, they fail to examine the American system that has a several tier system. Haves mores, haves, have very little and have nots.

Between letting someone die because they can't afford insurance or making them wait for treatment, even if they might die waiting, at least gives them the hope that the system gives some level of caring. Plus if you take into account preventative health care, those kinds of issues become less and less likely. It may still happen, with a variety of diseases you could be carrying that might just suddenly pop up, but chronic illnesses do get treated.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19741469)

What? A rapper is in control of US health care? Oh. You meant ludicrous.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (5, Interesting)

DrHyde (134602) | about 7 years ago | (#19741479)

Your argument about quality is bogus. What you don't seem to realise is that only the occasional failures make news stories, you never hear about the vast majority of patients who get treated quickly and correctly.

It's worth noting here that when I worked for a Lloyds of London medical malpractice underwriter, they refused to cover anyone in the US, partly because of the ridiculous culture of litigation, but also because they had determined that the majority of US medical care just wasn't up to the standards they expected in their other markets. The excessive litigation they could have coped with through increased premiums for Americans, but they found that the excessive incompetence made it more profitable to concentrate on selling cover in India and South Africa instead.

Your argument about food is also bogus. Food *is* elastic. If the price of potatoes is too high, I can buy pasta or rice or parsnips or I can grow my own instead. But if I was in the third world and had to buy medical treatment, I would have no choice in the matter. I can't shop around for some other cure when what ails me is brain cancer, nor can I fix it myself. If you really want a food and drink analogy, then you need to compare with water. Water is the one essential (and even then I'm sure there are some crazies who fuck themselves up by only drinking orange juice, or beer). You can pick and choose everything else, but you need water. Additionally, because of the infrastructure (pipes, pumping stations etc) required to deliver water, it is a natural monopoly just like electricity, local phone service, and so on. It is therefore no surprise that the price of water is regulated. If it wasn't, people would have no choice but to pay silly prices just like you poor sods do with medicine.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (2, Informative)

mr_matticus (928346) | about 7 years ago | (#19741557)

No, it's not. If the socialized care is inadequate -- and it will be (see other countries systems) -- to get decent care you'll have to go private, paying it out of your own pocket.
I'm sorry. Do you know something the rest of the world doesn't? Care is hardly inadequate in other countries. That's not to say that it's perfect and without problems.

How, precisely, would you be hurt by national and guaranteed health insurance for basic services? You know, prescriptions, checkups, urgent care, sports injuries, minor illnesses? The costs for these services are too high in the US, and you can scarcely call the service "inadequate" or that private health insurance is a superior solution.

As for emergency care, it's emergency care and it has to be provided. Part of the reason costs for the upper middle class are so high is because it's wrong not to provide emergency care to those who need it, even if they can't afford it. Someone has to pay for those losses those, and it's those who can pay for fancy private health care who have to foot that bill. Incorporating it into a tax-funded government service would only lower premiums for the middle class, now relieved of that burden.

You claim that you'd pay double if you needed superior care to what the government plan offered. That's simply not true. Look at the numbers in those "inadequate" other countries; for those with supplemental private insurance, are they paying any more than you are now in the US? Nope. If you desired more coverage or special treatment, you'd be paying the difference of the two. Your $11,000 health insurance plan is obviously superior to a government plan at $3000 per year. But if you had those basic and emergency services covered, $3000 of that plan would be paid for you, and the "free market" can be used to patch the holes with an $8000 plan. You'd be an idiot to buy a health insurance plan that duplicated government services where "inadequacy of care" is irrelevant. ER care is ER care, no matter how good your insurance is. Basic care is pretty tough to screw up. It's the middle part where national health care might be lacking, and why wouldn't the "free market" respond to that with services to meet those needs? What would be the purpose of them offering services you already get as a taxpayer?

If your response is that the insurance companies are greedy and would use it as a "free profit machine" then perhaps part of the national health care plan would include a ban on insurance companies charging for basic care in their premiums. The "free market" would then price the "differential insurance" at what the market would bear. If their pricing works for you now, it should work for you there, as well.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (3, Interesting)

hazem (472289) | about 7 years ago | (#19741631)

If this was true, anyone could start a hospital that offers the same quality at lower prices and get huge business. By your logic, food prices should be out of control, but they're not.

In other words, the free market handles it just fine.


Not quite. There is tremendous variety in the ways people get food - anyone can even grow it themselves. Even without home-growing there are lots of ways to get basic nutrition really cheap (huge bags of rice and beans are pretty cheap).

The medical field, on the other hand, is highly regulated by the government causing a scarcity in the number of people who can practice medicine. Even if I have a lot of money I can't just go open a hospital because I'd have to staff that hospital with qualified doctors, nurses, physicians assistants, surgeons, specialists, and medical assistants. There are only so many people who are already qualified and the schools can only pump them out so fast.

So you have a situation where the supply is not very elastic and most of the elasticity in demand is to simply choose to get care or not. And often the choice to not get care early on means the overall costs, and demands on the system, will be much much higher when situation gets worse.

A friend of mine, for example, got a deep cut on his finger. Instead of going to the doc-in-a-box and get stitches, he decided to take care of it himself. A couple days later he woke up with a high fever and he was unable to move his entire arm. He ended up spending 3 days in intensive care and another 3 days under observation. The cut had gotten infected and the infection went systemic on him. Thankfully for him he had insurance.

Having insurance he should have gotten it treated right away. But so many Americans lack insurance that they couldn't afford the $300 bill to get the finger treated when it would have been simple. Such a person would also be unable to pay the several thousands of dollars the 6 days in the hospital would have cost. "The system" currently buries this cost in overhead.

In Oregon (where I live now), our former governor, who was an E-room doc, has been advocating for universal coverage here in Oregon. The models used by his team demonstrate that the overall cost to the system would be less by helping ensure people get small things taken care of before they become really big.

Mass. probably is hoping they can save on those overhead costs by making sure everyone has the incentive and financial capability to get insured.

furthermore, putting more citizens on the governments teet, eliminating the need for them to take care of themselves, to take resposbility for their actions, will hurt a country in the long run.

That's all fine for those who actually have the resources to divert directly to healthcare. But many don't - and because we as a society have decided that everyone can get emergency care, those people wait until small things become emergencies.

There are really only 3 choices: pay excessive costs for emergency treatment, pay moderate costs for preventive care, or simply turn away the uninsured and let them die in the streets (and have higher secondary costs such as higher threats of epidemics, higher crime, and lost potential as people end up living lives crippled and damaged when they could have been treated).

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (2, Insightful)

ClassMyAss (976281) | about 7 years ago | (#19741711)

(re: "I don't see anybody complaining about the socialised road, garabage collection, fire, police and military.") I am.
I'm okay with ignoring the rest of the rant - though I must point out that every person I've spoken to in one of the countries with socialized health care has been thoroughly pleased with the situation and can't imagine why you would not want it - but I can't let this comment go by. Who, I must ask, do you think should be in charge of these things? Are you seriously deluded enough to think that private police, fire, or military groups would somehow improve anything? Garbage collection is fine as a private service, but roads? What would possibly improve by letting individual profit-seeking companies control where and when you are allowed to drive?

Government is best used to take care of things that are not well served by a free market, usually either because a goal is incompatible with a profit motive or because something else requires top down oversight. Services like the military are necessarily in the government's control because they require a cohesiveness and a strict chain of command that would be impossible with private militias. The police are there because of similar reasons, plus the simple fact that any body enforcing laws should absolutely never be in the position of weighing shareholders' financial desires versus the appropriate application of law. Fire stations are provided because it is in your best interest to extinguish a fire at a neighbor's house whether or not your neighbor has any ability to pay for this service. Can you really believe that any of these things would function at all, let alone better, if they were privately controlled?

Health care is another matter. Some argue that the free market is working just fine - they are usually those that are provided good health care packages by their employers and have not had their providers turn against them on matters of care. Others argue that the current system is not working very well - typically these are people who at some time or another have not been able to get health insurance for whatever reason. I'm on the line. To me, the main problem with the current system is that if your employer does not provide health insurance (or you're self-employed), there is essentially no way to get it at a reasonable price. This means that most people who don't have a serious condition already just don't get the insurance, because the likelihood of needing expensive care is just not high enough to justify spending the large amount of money on the insurance. That's not to say that I can entirely fault the insurance companies here, either, though - the only reason they raise rates for people independently purchasing health insurance is that their statistics have shown that people who buy it independently are much more likely to actually use it than those that get it through their employer. The idea being that if you didn't already know that you'd need to make a large number of claims, there's no chance in hell that you'd actually pay the outrageous rates to buy the insurance. Hence essentially, unless you're getting your insurance through an employer, if you want insurance at all you're assumed to be using it not as catastrophe insurance, but to cover a large set of expected health expenses (which kind of defeats the purpose of insurance).

The Massachusetts law in TFA is actually a good way to combat this problem because it removes the stigma (in the insurance company's eyes) associated with wanting to actually buy health care for yourself. Now it doesn't necessarily mean that you're sick and need a lot of medicine, it only means that you don't have health insurance elsewhere. So in that respect I think it's actually a step in the direction of making the product a little less expensive, though I still don't know if I think it's ultimately the "right" solution. The main problem is that mandating coverage means that should the prices go too high, consumers have no choice not to purchase, so there is quite a bit of potential for gouging here. Still, this is true of any essential service, and in theory a free market would behave quite well in this situation assuming no collusion between the insurance companies on price.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (2, Interesting)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | about 7 years ago | (#19741423)

"When a friend of mine, at the age of 20 developed Lukemia, put his Computer Science course on hold, checked in to the local hospital and began his treatment straight away. He was cured and back in education the following year. I fear that had he born in the United States, he would not have been able to continue with his studies, in fact, he probably would have been bankrupt. Socialised healthcare not only save his life, but his future."

Back in 2000, a Brit friend of mine's father needed heart surgery. He was told by national health that he was too old. He went to North Carolina and had the surgery done there. If he had stayed in the UK he would be dead now.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (1, Troll)

MemoryDragon (544441) | about 7 years ago | (#19741455)

Well the british healthcare system is known in Europe for being disastrous if you are too old, this is not the norm in Europe this is a british only thing! Generally Europeans are very proud on their healthcare being covered universally, they see it as a logical thing (and christian one) usually you get a very good treatment no matter how old you are, but if you are in GB, shudder!

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about 7 years ago | (#19741553)

He was told by national health that he was too old.

That's irrelevant to the situation at hand. If you're old in the US, you *already have* socialized health care. What we're talking about is allowing the younger people who are currently paying for socialized medicine in the US to be eligible to actually receive benefits from it.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (3, Insightful)

the_skywise (189793) | about 7 years ago | (#19741441)

Okay, first -- it's not a "broken" system. I know that's the pervasive view of thought du jour but it's NOT. I've got several friends going through various stages of issues/diseases/cancer and several different income levels, one without insurance and all are getting excellent treatment and aren't being financially ruined.

Are there problems with the system? Sure. But there are problems in the socialized systems as well of people not getting healthcare either due to rationing. Do we say those systems are "broken"?

Second, collective bargaining isn't a panacea to medical issues. Sure if the country buys one million flu shots in one batch to the lowest bidder you're going to get a better price deal. But the reality is that FEWER companies now produce flu shots so the price gets locked down to whatever those one or two companies can give. If THEY collectively join forces and set the price, well that's that for price trade.

The major problem with socialized medicine is that it takes control/responsibility of my medical life out of MY hands and puts it in control of the government. It's amazing that slashdotters will rally about private information being used by credit bureaus and how the government is big brother looking in on internet browsing sessions but when it comes to medical information, oh hey, let the government do it they can be trusted.

To paraphrase Franklin - "Those who would sacrifice liberty for [medical] security deserve neither"

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 7 years ago | (#19741693)

The major problem with socialized medicine is that it takes control/responsibility of my medical life out of MY hands and puts it in control of the government.
Good point.

Motorcycle helmet, seatbelt laws are just the start. (reduces costs)

 

Yes its broken (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19741735)

I will disagree with you. I cut myself last year. It wasn't particularly deep, but it scared me enough from the huge gash it left behind. Only the skin got cut, but because it was on a Sunday, my doctor's office was closed, and I had to go to the hospital. I had to get 20 some stiches (actually, just staples). I never saw a doctor, just a type of nurse. I also got a tentanus shot and 2 X-Rays done to make sure no metal was left in the wound. I was expecting the cost to be $1000 max, probably less as it was just 45 minutes. My doctor said he would have charged me $250 for the same service.

I got a bill for $3000. I got this bill because I was uninsured. I know the insurance would have paid only $500 but the hospital screws you if you are uninsured. This system would bankrupt me if it was anything more serious. I'm a person too poor for insurance, but still have assets (a car) and thus don't qualify for government help (until I'm broke - i.e. lose my car). I could not fight the bill - I was told that since they did not bill me fraudulently (no double billing basically), the bill was what it was.

I can't go to the doctor for fear of high bills. Even if it would be cheaper in the long run. If I need to get tests done, I can barely afford it, I'm just scraping by. I am young and relatively healthy, but I still have issues time to time. It makes me sick to my stomach when I think of how much I get charged as a private person and what the breaks the health insurance industry gets. It's downright unfair.

Since I have relatives up there, I am moving to Canada soon. I know many Canadians complain about the system, but none would trade it in for the American system. I see the light, I'm moving out of here. I won't miss it. I'll pay the higher taxes if it means that I don't have to worry about rotting in the street or being close to my death before I get help. Fuck all of you blasting Socialized Medicine - it's a safety net for people like me - like the original poster of this thread said: healthcare is a necessity, not a luxury - unless you don't mind dying early or being crippled for life.

(Yeah, I know being a poor /.er is a rare thing. Don't stare at me too much.)

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (1)

spottedkangaroo (451692) | about 7 years ago | (#19741743)

control of the government.

How is it in your control now? Sadly, that's only an illusion. If there's a power vacuum, someone's going to fill it. If it's not the government, it will be corporations. Personally, I'd rather have a bloated bumbling bureaucracy running my life than a conscienceless corporation who's only legal responsibility is to increase profits.

Technically, yes, I'd rather run my own affairs, but that's not how the real world works. When it seems to it's wishful thinking.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (5, Insightful)

master_p (608214) | about 7 years ago | (#19741453)

"Don't you feel like you're being ripped off paying for the health care of jobless people when you're busting a gut earning a living?"

Most unemployed people are not lazy bums who don't want to work. They are people with psychological problems who feel being outcast from society, and don't belong anywhere.

And the poor people are not only the jobless ones, but those that work for minimum pay, because of being unlucky to be born in the lower classes.

It's a shame to even ask that question. It shows a profound lack of understanding of how the world operates. It's that kind of ignorance that politicians exploit in order to get elected.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (3, Insightful)

hazem (472289) | about 7 years ago | (#19741647)

And the poor people are not only the jobless ones, but those that work for minimum pay, because of being unlucky to be born in the lower classes.

Didn't you know? There are no classes in the US. /sarcasm

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (1)

JavaRob (28971) | about 7 years ago | (#19741759)

And don't we already have a huge problem in the US because emergency rooms can't turn away seriously ill people... and all of the uninsured people are basically forced to wait until their minor (cheap to treat) illness becomes serious (expensive to treat), and they come in to the ER?

Not exactly my field of expertise, but the issue is clearly not so simple.

Unless, of course, you take the point of view that poor people, mentally ill people, and generally unlucky people should just die. In which case, I say let's send them all to your house, and let them die in the kiddie pool on your front lawn to help you reconsider your morals.

Seriously -- with any social program there'll always be some waste and some abuse, some pure parasites. The response is to work to *minimize* the waste and abuse (it can't be avoided completely...) without harming the benefit to the rest.

Factually dubious (3, Interesting)

kahei (466208) | about 7 years ago | (#19741481)

the United Kingdom spends eighty billion pounds a year on healthcare

Hm, nominal spending is more than that. Now I don't know much about the NHS (other than that it doesn't work) but I do know a bit about government contracts in the UK, and I would be very surprised indeed if more than about 50-60% of that went on anything of even peripheral value to healthcare.

Here, the Times (rapidly becoming a tabloid but never mind) has something on it:

Annoyingly chatty but probably basically correct article. [timesonline.co.uk]

To put it another way, the UK NHS is like the US DoD; they're both ways to funnel money from the taxpayer to those who position themselves to recieve it. The NHS, however, which is regarded almost with veneration by most British people and which doesn't have to fight actual wars, is far more corrupt; buildings built, bought, sold and knocked down within the space of a few years, and so on. But the NHS long ago passed the point where it's powerful enough to keep going forever -- it's quite a political power broker in fact, which is why you *do* get reasonable free healthcare from it in much of Wales and Scotland.

Meanwhile, in England, health care does cost money -- you pay over the counter for even a basic dental checkup. You don't want to? Then take out some private health insurance. It's a fast growing sector in the UK. Good!

I imagine that there are people who find it hard to afford, though, what with all the taxes they're paying. And that's bad. But what can you do?

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (1)

codeButcher (223668) | about 7 years ago | (#19741513)

Socialised health care delivers better value for money because of the enormous purchasing power of the government. The NHS can purchase millions of shots in one go. That allows you to hammer the drug companies on price and share the proceeds with the population.

In theory.

Socialised health care is not evil communism, it is a practical solution to the health care of your nation. I don't see anybody complaining about the socialised road, garabage collection, fire, police and military.

I suppose it depends on how the government goes about this in practice.

Example: I live in South Africa, where employees of private security firms (which patrol your neighbourhood, monitor your alarm system, and usually offer an "armed response" service) outnumber police officers about 4:1. Yes, the police are financed with our taxes. And yes, should you wish to obtain the services of a private security firm, that is a premium for your own pocket, just like any other commercial transaction.

I also hear from friends living in the UK that the healthcare system is sometimes so overburdened that the waiting lists for doctor's appointments run ahead a week or two. Is that true? I suppose it depends on region. I can't imagine that I won't be able to see a doctor for two weeks for a flu that might keep me in bed for perhaps 3 days - although in my case I usually just see the doctor to get a medical certificate for my employer and throw away the prescription.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (2, Informative)

NMerriam (15122) | about 7 years ago | (#19741781)

I also hear from friends living in the UK that the healthcare system is sometimes so overburdened that the waiting lists for doctor's appointments run ahead a week or two. Is that true?


LOL, if that's overburdened, sign me up. Here in the USA, if you're not in danger of imminent death, good luck getting an appointment with any doctors covered by your insurance company within several weeks, if at all (many doctors who accept insurance in populous areas are simply not accepting new patients).

Socialised healthcare has been rejected (1, Insightful)

Colin Smith (2679) | about 7 years ago | (#19741533)

Fully social healthcare has been rejected in most of the countries in the EU, for very good reasons.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/6700685.stm [bbc.co.uk]
http://society.guardian.co.uk/nhsperformance/story /0,,1410938,00.html [guardian.co.uk]
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/6266124.stm [bbc.co.uk]

etc etc etc etc etc ad nauseam.

The UK has been throwing tens of billions of pounds at the system in order to try to reduce the waiting but you know that's temporary while the lists are in the news. At some point reality will kick in (again) and they'll rediscover they really can't afford £105 billion (even more next year) every year. The people of course blame immigration for the spiralling costs and waiting lists, because it's simple to do so, but in reality it's just the wrong model.

In the majority of EU countries some form of compulsory health insurance is in use. There's no particular need for the state to own and operate hospitals.

Free market economies work best when prices are elastic; that is, where changes in price affect the demand for the product. This allows price to signal the level of available supply and prevent shortages of goods. The problem with healthcare is that it is not elastic.
Hmm, perhaps, but we're not talking about the price of healthcare.

We're talking about the cost of healthcare insurance which is an entirely different thing. Where it's too expensive people simply don't get it, as is evidenced by the fact that millions of Americans don't have insurance. What drives up healthcare insurance costs is the legal requirement to treat people without insurance. Who bears that cost? The people paying for insurance. This is the wrong model as well.

 

Studies have shown otherwise (2, Informative)

konekoniku (793686) | about 7 years ago | (#19741575)

Studies have shown that healthcare is not perfectly inelastic. A 1970s RAND study, the most comprehensive one ever conducted (in that it utilized a true double-blind experimental setup spanning multiple years and involving thousands of participants at a total cost of $300 million dollars), demonstrated that people that have insurance with lower copays do, on average, rack up a lot higher healthcare expenses than those without insurance. (I forget the exact numbers, but it was something like people with 20% copays on average spend some ~50% more on healthcare than people with 95% copays). This demonstrates that healthcare demand is clearly NOT perfectly inelastic, but instead does depend quite strongly upon private price levels.

feeling ripped off? (2, Informative)

forgotten_my_nick (802929) | about 7 years ago | (#19741645)

> "Don't you feel like you're being ripped off paying for
> the health care of jobless people when you're busting a
> gut earning a living?"

You make good points in your post and feeling ripped off is a feeling everyone gets when paying taxes. :)

In Ireland it is free to some extent but not totally free, however if you do incur medical costs you can claim the money back from your taxes to almost the same amount. Also certain things are free by default (eg. Eye/Dental check ups). So it is not like you are being ripped off.

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (1)

CeramicNuts (265664) | about 7 years ago | (#19741649)

We already have socialized healthcare in the form of Medicare and Medicaid, the US Dept of HealthHS spent over $600 billion last year, larger than the military spending in fact. With the debt approaching 9 trillion, and continuous budget deficits how can we even afford this?

Re:Socialised Healthcare is the future for the US (5, Insightful)

bheer (633842) | about 7 years ago | (#19741695)

> Socialised health care delivers better value for money because of the enormous purchasing power of the government. The NHS can purchase millions of shots in one go.

That's the good side of the NHS. The dark side of the NHS is quotas -- because of budget limitations they have very long waiting lists, and Brits have recently taken to travelling to South Africa or India for care that they need urgently. Doctors are less willing to recommend surgery and more willing to tell the patient to wait the problem out.

Another dark side is cost control. Cost control sounds great in theory but in practice means keeping salaries for health workers down, and getting by with inadequate staff. This has led to poorly maintained hospitals in many areas, and the current MRSA scare in the UK.

Finally, because of the pay issue, the best and brightest doctors have emigrated, often to America. The NHS (as I'm sure anyone who's been following the UK carbombers story will know) is quite dependent on foreign doctors because they find they pay scales attractive. (This isn't to say recruiting foreign doctors is bad, just that the pay is better elsewhere.) IMHO this is one reason why a lot of brilliant Brits my age have chosen careers like law or business.

Anyway, some form of universal health care is good to have, but if anyone thinks the NHS is a paragon, please think again (or ask some Brits who're -- unlike the chap in Sicko -- not Labour Party ideologues). And also, consider the Swiss model [civitas.org.uk] , which is pretty similar to the Mass. model: it gives a high degree of choice while charging transparently and competitively for health insurance, thus creating market pressure to keep costs down.

Great. (2, Interesting)

ThePromenader (878501) | about 7 years ago | (#19741261)

So, from here on, Massachusetts residents are obliged by law to make money for a profit-oriented company (that may or may not actually cover their ailments).

Wow, that's progress.

Re:Great. (3, Insightful)

Prof.Phreak (584152) | about 7 years ago | (#19741329)

So, from here on, Massachusetts residents are obliged by law to make money for a profit-oriented company (that may or may not actually cover their ailments).

That was my first thought too! Why not start by removing any requirements for Medicaid? Just remove any checks---whoever applies gets it. And if folks ever admitted into hospital, that application is automatic for them. That would ensure everyone is covered. Would need to pump more money into Medicaid, but, eh, there's gotta be costs... But in my view, much better then pumping the same money into a for-profit entity.

Re:Great. (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about 7 years ago | (#19741595)

Most conservatives would say that you're just bloating an inefficient government program, but the reality is is that HMOs are just as bad, if not worse than Medicaid/Medicare.

I'd rather have my money go to Medicaid, which if the state elected bureaucrat fucks it up, I can vote the asshole out of office, than to say, Aetna or Kaiser, where if the CEO or other top level official fucks up, he gets a golden parachute and some bad press. There are just some things that we should not leave to profit-driven organizations. When people's lives are at stake, profit should be the last thing on anyone's mind.

At least according to Michael Moore (4, Insightful)

Zarhan (415465) | about 7 years ago | (#19741271)

...what's the point in having insurance for all, if insurance companies will just deny all the claims due to conditions obscured in legalese?

Re:At least according to Michael Moore (2, Interesting)

Tatarize (682683) | about 7 years ago | (#19741581)

Well, actually... that's just half the problem. It's so much cheaper to just give the hospitals all the money for the services rendered than to force private citizens to get insurance. I am very opposed to the government requiring us to get certain services unless they are themselves offering the services directly. This law really does just feed the health insurance industry without providing the needed care. We could do the same exact thing without the paperwork and for cheaper if we let Medicare cover it. Really I hate this law. I do, I hate it. And few things are enough to inspire hate in me. Requiring everybody to have health insurance is the worst solution they can have, mostly because it's reasonably close to the best... provide everybody with health care.

Also, I think the government should offer at cost liability car insurance.

Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19741283)

Finally the US is starting to catch up with the civilised world.

Sicko (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19741285)

Now Mass residents will have a healthcare system rivaling the UK NHS [bbc.co.uk]

An even better idea! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19741297)

I can just imagine now all the people who are above the "poverty line" and still can't get health insurance because of pre-existing conditions. Or they just can't afford it.

Lets just require that people not be poor!

That'll fix it!

Making something illegal doesn't fix it (3, Informative)

line-bundle (235965) | about 7 years ago | (#19741305)

I have looked at the Mass health insurance plan. I may be misunderstanding something, but their idea seems to be to get rid of uninsured by declaring it illegal. The closest equivalent I can think of is to stop New Orleans floods by declaring it illegal for levees to break.

They haven't gone a single step forward in fixing the underlying problem of why healthcare costs so much.

(disclaimer: I live in Mass. and my health insurance has not gone down. In fact it went up)

Fines for those who cannot afford insurance! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19741383)

You know it makes sense, Massachusetts!

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

And all we have are lawyers.

Re:Making something illegal doesn't fix it (1)

PrinceAshitaka (562972) | about 7 years ago | (#19741391)

This will work. people may not like it and the middle class that currently do not have health insurance will not like it becuase it means they have to give up luxuries they do not need to buy something that is not a luxury. People will have to give up luxuries like cable TV, Internet and eating at restaurants every other day. There are many people who just cannot afford health insurance but there are many more who can but don't want to give up things that they don't need.

BTW, I live is Switzerland who did obtain universal health care coverage by requireing everyone above the povery line to buy health insurance and giving it to people below the poverty line. It is really expensive, and I think some of the heath insurance providers are corrupt, but it is a better system than what they have in the US.

Pre-Existing Conditions, IAALIA (4, Interesting)

Travoltus (110240) | about 7 years ago | (#19741459)

(I am a licensed insurance agent)

Those middle class people in Massachusetts who have pre-existing conditions, will be driven into homelessness. For absolutely certain. No questions asked. Out the door and to the loaves and fishes NOW.

These people will pay $1000 premiums per month - I work with these insurance companies and I see it happening daily in California - and in many cases their contractually agreed upon coverage will get denied.

The raw numbers cannot be denied, and cannot be resisted. The numbers - the the number of people with pre-existing conditions, their income, and their health insurance premiums - all clearly say that a large number of lower and middle-middle class will start paying fines, or going homeless, or leaving Massachusetts.

This is all out war on the middle class, and many will leave, and when they do, the rich will be paying more to support the health care-driven tax increases to support the poor and then the rich will start leaving and badebadebadethatsallfolks!

I hope this law is rigorously enforced. Tie it into SSN's and whichever SSN isn't insured, fine 'em. That'll bring quite a swift end to this law. :)

Maybe you should switch to Geico (1)

the_skywise (189793) | about 7 years ago | (#19741493)

Like driver's insurance, it "solves" the problem by saving the government money. (in expensive accidents with uninsured motorists, the government would inevitably have to pick up the bill. Forcing everybody to have driver's insurance "solves" the problem) So long as everyone has insurance, the government doesn't need to support a large medicaid service and can point their finger back to the insurance provider.

Re:Making something illegal doesn't fix it (2, Insightful)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | about 7 years ago | (#19741607)

In the UK having not having car insurance is illegal (OTOH if they catch you they normally just take the car off you and crush it).
It's fairly analogous - companies having a legal right to your money mandated by the government. Competition doesn't help much.. there are lots of insurance companies but they all charge the same fees, so unless someone breaks ranks and starts offering really cheap insurance then the price will stay the same, more or less.

Can't imagine mandatory health insurance.. I had that through my employer once and turned it down as it wasn't worth the paper it was written on. It did't cover preexisting conditions, chronic conditions, accidents, anything to do with sport or 'dangerous' hobbies, basically pretty much anything you'd possibly need a hospital for. I think they specialise in breast enlargement or something... can't think of what their niche is. All the private health insurance in this country is the same - god help you if it's the same in the US.

Re:Making something illegal doesn't fix it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19741641)

The difference is that you are not forced to own a car. You are (more or less) forced to keep living.

sycko (2, Interesting)

wwmedia (950346) | about 7 years ago | (#19741311)

i highly recommend for people to watch sycko [imdb.com]


after watching this i am shocked, USA is in a bigger mess than i taught!

as a European i am happy i don't have to make tough choices when it comes to my health, if i need treatment i would get treatment with little hassle

i highly recommend for any Americans with Irish roots to come back here (u wont get hassle getting citizenship!) the economy in last 10 years has grown so much the country is unrecognizable, and u get quality health care (its not perfect but compared to the US...)

Re:sycko (1)

Alioth (221270) | about 7 years ago | (#19741565)

Apparently, though, you don't get taught how to spell or punctuate though :-)

Re:sycko (1)

bdjacobson (1094909) | about 7 years ago | (#19741611)

i highly recommend for people to watch sycko [imdb.com]

after watching this i am shocked, USA is in a bigger mess than i taught!

as a European i am happy i don't have to make tough choices when it comes to my health, if i need treatment i would get treatment with little hassle

i highly recommend for any Americans with Irish roots to come back here (u wont get hassle getting citizenship!) the economy in last 10 years has grown so much the country is unrecognizable, and u get quality health care (its not perfect but compared to the US...)
--This is less directed at you, and more at the general less educated, middle school population I see more and more online nowdays; so don't take it personally; and it's not meant to be flamebait, just a general reminder that no effort goes wasted...

You know the reason I stay away from digg is because the population I see frequenting it cannot be bothered to take themselves seriously enough to learn to capitalize and punctuate their own writing. This is not a matter of "well i'm not in skool so it dusnt matter if i typ rite y would i care poopy head" it's out of simple respect for your reader. If you can't be bothered to be proper, the reader shouldn't be bothered to read. Sometimes people genuinely don't know better. Other times they genuinely don't care. These two can be very difficult to tell apart, and the latter has a nasty effect on the potency of your writing. Simply put, makes many a reader genuinely not care what you think and genuinely think you're stupid, if you can't be bothered to present yourself in a reasonable manner. It is only to your own benefit anywhere in life, and this includes here on Slashdot, to tailor your speech to the audience. You might not gives a rat's about the formatting-- but the effort never goes to waste. (It's about the only lesson I think RMS could take from some of us--haven't been paying completely attention, but last I checked, even if he's going to appear before a bunch of suits and ties, he won't dress to the occasion. This has the same effect on the suits and ties as an un-proofed post does on the reader: it makes it very difficult to take you seriously.)

So really, it's to your own benefit. No reason not to.

Worse than doing nothing (1)

MalusCaelestis (172079) | about 7 years ago | (#19741347)

I listened to the whole program and this is perhaps the worst idea I've heard towards overcoming the pervasive lack of health insurance. Most of the people who don't have health insurance don't have it because they can't afford it. A somewhat decent plan costs a couple hundred dollars a month for individuals and several hundred for families. The people who can't afford these prices don't choose buying an iPhone and a new HDTV over getting health insurance--they don't have the money in the first place.

While the state claims that the prices will be lower because of this law, they've established a council to look into ways of lowering costs--and their suggestions won't be implemented until at least 2008. So for the rest of this year at least, costs aren't any cheaper than they were before this law went into effect. And knowing most insurance companies, if they can reduce their costs, it's unlikely they'd ever pass those savings onto consumers willingly.

They say there won't be a penalty for people who genuinely can't afford health insurance, but the state gets to arbitrarily draw the line between who makes enough money and who doesn't. And when it comes to providing services for citizens, governments don't usually err on the side of compassion.

So how is this better than leaving things alone?

Re:Worse than doing nothing (1)

bdjacobson (1094909) | about 7 years ago | (#19741653)

The thing I don't get is insurance companies. The name sounds like an oxymoron to me. All that is required is a large account which all the monthly payments are deposited to. When something happens, money is taken out to pay for your expenses.

There is no need for the fund to be managed by a "company", unless there is a need for freeloaders who exist for no reason but to take your money.

Hopefully, this is all a government backed insurance would be. Unfortunate, however, that the majority, like the rest of taxes, would be paid by the upper class who are still receiving paychecks. Not by the CxO's from their $200m retirement packages.

Is No One Denied Insurance in Mass? (4, Interesting)

Rhett (141440) | about 7 years ago | (#19741349)

Does this mean that someone who is denied health insurance in any other state will be able to move to Massachusetts and be guaranteed to be approved for health insurance? Will high risk people who are denied in other states have higher insurance premiums to pay than "lower risk" insurees in Mass?

Will there even be an application process if accepting me is compulsory? Will this give insurance companies less loopholes to try to out of paying for my expensive procedure. For example, as pointed out in "Sicko", insurance companies routinely deny expensive insurance procedures by finding things on the insurance application to invalidate their contract with the patient. If one can argue to a judge that the insurance company had to approve them no matter what, I'd assume that this makes Massachusetts a much safer place to be able to depend on the health care and insurance that you are paying for than anywhere else in the country.

I think these are pretty important questions, but I can't seem to find the answer anywhere.

This is NOT Public Health Care (5, Insightful)

JavaSavant (579820) | about 7 years ago | (#19741365)

This is simply a mandate that each resident carries some form of health insurance. Read that again: this is not subsidized health care; this is simply a law that creates an annual tax penalty for residents who cannot prove that they are insured. Bottom line - it ensures that any health insurer who operates within Massachsuetts is virtually guaranteed to earn business from the constituency here.

In the first year of this program, residents who elect to defy the mandate and do not purchase coverage will be subject to a paltry $219 lien on their taxes as punishment. Given that this is far less of an economic burden than paying the mandated premiums, anyone who can do math and is healthy would be advised to consider paying the penalty. Anyone who doesn't fit into either of those two categories probably already has health insurance - and those who don't more than likely exist at polar ends of the economic spectrum: they either print their own money and can pay for health-care as needed or they are poor and can't afford the tax penalty or the premium. Of course, for this group (earning 30K or less per year as an individual and 60K per year or less as a family of 4) - the premium costs are gratis under the new Massachusetts law.

Massachusetts has found a way to make public health policy in this country even more ludicrous than it already is. They have taken a system that was a dangerous marriage between public policy and corporate interest and have fully endorsed the idea that health insurance should be the business of private enterprise and that mandating the purchase of that insurance by enacting silly laws and tax penalties is the business of the state. Taken together, the whole thing seems rather sinister at the surface, and that's because it is. It shows either an utter disregard for the concept of insurance or a determined attempt to exploit the public ignorance of personal risk assessment. It's hard in fact to find ANY real benefit for the citizens of Massachsuetts in this mess.

The sales pitch by proponents of the legislation is that it will lower the average premium cost for the entire populace; as healthy individuals are forced to subscribe to an insurance plan, the revenues generated from their participation will offset the increasing costs of paying out benefits to subscribers who are sick. This really is like any other insurance that you can buy: the insurer needs to have as many (if not more) low risk subscribers who pay their premiums such that formerly low risk subscribers who become high risk can be paid the proper benefit when the time comes. But in this instance, the insurance industry won't have to break a sweat to get those low-risk subscribers on board. In fact, they don't even have to get off the couch - the statewide mandate ensures that unless there is some pandemic that makes everyone in Massachusetts sick, there will always be a pool of low-risk subscribers who generate a reliable revenue stream.

People wonder how this is a bad thing? Why would decreasing the average cost of health insurance for all individuals actually be a detrement to people? Well, first of all - because everyone must participate or be penalized financially, this is less of an insurance system and more of a welfare system: everyone is putting their money into the pool, and those who need the money more than others are allowed to take from the pool. In this case however, the twist is that the people responsible for managing this money are actually taking ownership of it and making business decisions on its use. While in a government-regulated welfare program revenues can have no other purpose than to cover expenses, insurance companies have a profit motive - an extra hand that dips into the pool of contributed funds every so often and takes a little something for itself. This isn't in and of itself evil - we deal with big corporations every day. However, there aren't any laws out there that require me to buy $10 of goods at Wal-Mart each day, that is precisely what Massachusetts has done with health insurance. With the influence of shareholders in the welfare equation, there is nothing to say that those increased revenues must be used to offset escalating benefit payouts to the sick; they can pocket this money and walk away, if they so choose.

Secondly, this eliminates any need for competition amongst the insurers and encourages collusion and price fixing. Instead of participating in the market and trying to convince even the most saavy of people that they should purchase insurance they don't need, health insurers now can look to each other for the price point which is required to generate enough revenue to satisfy some constant risk-return ratio and send Massachusetts citizens the bill, which they will be required to pay. Given that within a few years the tax-penalty that is part of the new law will become on par with the premiums, the economic incentive to not purchase insurance will disappear and the insurers will be in a position to name their price in an environment where even the healthiest of individuals will be resigned to the fact that it is better to shell out cash for something that may eventually procure a service, rather than simply pay it out as a tax penalty.

As a libertarian, the whole arrangement is patently offensive to me. Health policy in this country has always been about providing it as a welfare service to those who can't afford insurance while at the same time allowing the rest of us to decide as to whether our own situation dictates whether or not the purchase of health insurance is a gamble with some positive expectation. At least in a welfare system, there is no facade as to how taxation is used to provide services to the population as a whole. Massachusetts' system however is a tax where the collector is private enterprise with a profit motive. Taken together, the law should be enough to offend everyone. In Massachusetts' however - not enough people seem to be paying attention.

Re:This is NOT Public Health Care (1)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | about 7 years ago | (#19741709)

If you don't mind, could you please answer me on the below paragraph?

What would happen if we were to create a federal law completely exempting medical establishments from any and all federal taxes, if and only if, such medical establishments are willing to see patients on a sliding scale? The sliding scale will be government mandated. Perhaps a simple doctor visit would warant $20 for someone who is below the 110% of the poverty level, for example.

If Mitt Romney originally introduced this idea, from what I can tell, it would be a very bad idea if he is elected president. For someone to endorse such a dangerous idea shows how unready he is. However, things may have changed in the past few years, so who knows what his thoughts are now.

I would like to see individual state(s) create a payroll tax, earmarked for health care. This money could be entered into some sort of debit system in the state. A special state-wide health care account. Citizens of the state could opt to purchase a card and pay an annual fee of perhaps $100 or so. This would be completely voluntary. Per card transaction, there would be something like $15 copay at the medical establishment. Once the pool is empty for a period, it is empty. We might have four periods per year. The payroll tax generated January 1st through March 31st would be available in the system perhaps April 15th. Paroll tax generated April 1st through June 30th would be available July 15th. And so on.

Re:This is NOT Public Health Care (4, Insightful)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about 7 years ago | (#19741721)

As a libertarian, the whole arrangement is patently offensive to me. Health policy in this country has always been about providing it as a welfare service to those who can't afford insurance while at the same time allowing the rest of us to decide as to whether our own situation dictates whether or not the purchase of health insurance is a gamble with some positive expectation. At least in a welfare system, there is no facade as to how taxation is used to provide services to the population as a whole. Massachusetts' system however is a tax where the collector is private enterprise with a profit motive. Taken together, the law should be enough to offend everyone. In Massachusetts' however - not enough people seem to be paying attention.
Oh my god, it's a Libertarian who gets the fucking point.

As a Liberal, I'm frequently shocked by Libertarians utter disdain for public services(I'm looking at you Ron Paul) and blatant misrepresentation of what Government is, or even that it can do a good job(I'm looking at you Penn Jilette). However, as it can be easily shown, no matter how bad Government is and no matter how infinite it can be incompetent, there is no shortage of examples from within the private sector of private businesses and Non Government Organizations screwing up just as badly. The major difference of course, is accountability. We can hold our Government more accountable for it's actions through elections.

its about time (1, Informative)

Gearoid_Murphy (976819) | about 7 years ago | (#19741377)

this should have been done a long time ago, America stands out as being an extremely wealthy country but with a dire health service, having the highest infant mortality rates in the developed world, not that many countries have a truly satisfactory health service, better then nothing though.

Free at last!!!! (2, Funny)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | about 7 years ago | (#19741385)

"Those who fall below the federal poverty line may be eligible for health care at no cost."

Wow! I guess there *is* a such thing as a free lunch.

Re:Free at last!!!! (1)

mathfeel (937008) | about 7 years ago | (#19741427)

Like many laws of physics (such as DECREASE of entropy), free lunch always applies locally. Globally, someone still has to foot the bill.

we need universal health (2, Interesting)

mathfeel (937008) | about 7 years ago | (#19741397)

The law should mandate health insurance like it does car insurance. It's not necessarily for the protection of the driver but for other drivers on the road. I absolute don't buy the argument that people should be free to make choices, including NOT buying health insurance. Just like you are not free to drive uninsured, we should not be free to go about without health insurance because when we don't go see the doctor, who knows what potentially contagious disease we are carrying? How can we fight SARS and bird flu when many won't go to doctors simply because they can't afford it? I think it's a wise way to spend my taxes to help other people in need even when a small portion of them are "free-loader" of the society. At least people can go to the doctor when they begin to feel sick. The alternative is that they won't go to the doctor until it's too late and cost even MORE of my taxes or spread some uncontrollable disease in my community. Then there is the collective bargaining power of the government to hospital and drug companies which will also drive down the cost of medical service.

Re:we need universal health (1)

giafly (926567) | about 7 years ago | (#19741545)

The law should mandate health insurance like it does car insurance. It's not necessarily for the protection of the driver but for other drivers on the road.
Do you know what you just wrote? That mandatory health insurance should not cover the individual who buys it, but only the other people they might injure, e.g. by coughing on them? Wow. Just wow.

Re:we need universal health (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19741677)

>"I absolute don't buy the argument that people should be free to make choices"

Well then, go play with your crappy Vista POS and STFU! Who the hell are you to think you have the right to tell me what to do! Next thing you'll be telling me who I can and can't marry and what a woman can and can't do in the event she gets pregnant.

>"we should not be free to go about without health insurance because when we don't go see the doctor, who knows what potentially contagious disease we are carrying?"

So let me get this straight, my health insurance, like most other people's, only covers me for one check-up visit to my Doctor a year... and that's supposed to prevent me from potentially carrying around contagious diseases for the rest of the year?

>"How can we fight SARS and bird flu when many won't go to doctors simply because they can't afford it?"

Some people don't go because they just hate Doctors. And you can rattle your little little FUD alarm over SARS/Bird Flu all you want, but your fear mongering isn't going to change the fact that even if it cost $400 to get a check-up, it's still cheaper to pay that once a year than the thousands of dollars people a shelling out for a health plan that they effectively use for that same check-up.

>"I think it's a wise way to spend my taxes to help other people in need even when a small portion of them are "free-loader" of the society."

Damn those free-loaders... how could some of them possibly choose to feed their children and themselves or heat their house in the winter instead of further padding the pockets of corporations that turn multi-million dollar profits every year!

>"At least people can go to the doctor when they begin to feel sick. The alternative is that they won't go to the doctor until it's too late and cost even MORE of my taxes or spread some uncontrollable disease in my community."

You sir, are the disease in your own community.

>"Then there is the collective bargaining power of the government to hospital and drug companies which will also drive down the cost of medical service."

Yeah, they've proven to be so great at doing that, like that law congress passed disallowing the government from bargaining for better drug prices.

Go back to digg you turd!

Health has no price ... but value (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 7 years ago | (#19741421)

I consider it a step in the right direction. Yes, it's "socialism at its finest", but it's a matter of being human, IMO.

Yes, the ones that need this the most are also the ones that can hardly pay for it. So you, the healthy guy, spend more on your insurance than you'll ever get out of it, most likely. Still, I prefer being healthy and "ripped off" to being sick and "enjoying" my stay in the hospital on someone else's expense.

But that doesn't mean that we have to "level" the field. You can still get "better" plans for more money. Here, the solution is simple: You have a standard insurance. Which covers most of your medication, operations and a stay in the hospital. You want more, you can get more, you just pay more. You want a certain doctor? Pay for it. You want to lie alone in a room in the hospital? Pay for it. You want certain medicaments instead of the standard? Pay for it. You want painkillers where there are usually none required (like in most tooth related issues)? Pay for it.

Yes, the "extras" cost more than they're worth. Most of the time (a shot of painkiller for a simple tooth drilling costs about 15 bucks, a room for yourself in a hospital is a few hundred bucks extra a day). But that's how it works here. You get what you need from your health care. You want comfort? Pay for it.

You can't shop around for ERs (1, Insightful)

ElvisGump (1018396) | about 7 years ago | (#19741425)

The cry from Republicans has always been that socialized medicine is some slippery slope to communist rule because doctors won't be their own bosses anymore.

The truth is though that you can't apply capitalism to medicine because if you're dying of a heart attack or some other emergency you can't choose between Macy's prices and Walmart's prices in ERs. You go where the ambulance will take you.

You can almost never pin doctors or hospitals down much with "What will this cost?"

You are at the mercy of the bill they will send and if you are uninsured you can be sure it will be approaching if not beyond what you can earn in a year to stay in the hospital a few days.

It's an unconscionable system in America.

Look at the effort to discredit Michael Moore's "Sicko".

The rich bastards running HMOs are stooping to outrageous levels to stop and discredit Moore. And they might succeed again with the FOX Noise crowd.

From an outside perspective (5, Interesting)

SySOvErRiDe (646513) | about 7 years ago | (#19741431)

I'm from Australia here, and I've never understood how the US health care system worked until I saw Moore's documentary, SiCKO.

I would watch American movies and TV shows, and wouldn't understand when you guys talk about, getting a job with 'health benefits'. Here in Australia, the only thing I worry about getting a job is if it pays right.

If I go to the GP (family doctor in the US), or need to go to the hospital, paying the bills is the last thing on my mind. It's all taken care of. Medicines are also subsidised by the government. You collect virtually any prescription for $3.

Honestly, I was surprised you guys let it get that bad. Then again, I wasn't surprised the reason it went the way it did: through greed and politics.

Re:From an outside perspective (1)

Vinegar Joe (998110) | about 7 years ago | (#19741499)

So why do so many Australians go to Bali, Singapore, India and Thailand for their medical and dental care?

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talks/bbing/stories/s1308 505.htm [abc.net.au]

Re:From an outside perspective (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19741679)

A couple of reasons:
1. The vast majority of these are elective procedures (ie cosmetic). Since this isn't covered by Medicare (Medicare is our public health system), people choose to go overseas and get a free holiday at the same time.
2. Medicare and Public education are slowly being eroded by our conservative government (ironically called The Liberal Party), who are attempting to shift Australia to the American model.

So Medicare isn't the great system it used to be. The baby boom has a lot to do with it because the shift in population distribution means the system can't cope with all these now old retirees claiming pensions and going to the doctor. It seems the economic models of the 20th century were all based around infinite population growth.

Re:From an outside perspective (1)

blackpaw (240313) | about 7 years ago | (#19741725)

Because its not a large number, its a tiny fraction of the population, mainly for elective surgery. And dental care is *not* socialised here - its private.

Wouldn't it be better... (3, Insightful)

The Fanta Menace (607612) | about 7 years ago | (#19741485)

...to tax everyone, and have the state provide the healthcare, like in Australia, the UK and most other sensible Western countries?

Compulsory health insurance will just make the insurers raise their prices, because they know that everyone just has to put up with it.

Re:Wouldn't it be better... (1)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | about 7 years ago | (#19741539)

Everyone is already taxed.... except the richest corporations...

Note to self: don't move there. (1)

jcr (53032) | about 7 years ago | (#19741527)

What this legislation shows more than anything else is that the Massachusetts legislature subscribes to the idea that anything that's good to do should be mandatory, and enforced with the threat of violence if you decline to comply.

-jcr

Romney Just Took The Credit (2, Informative)

occamboy (583175) | about 7 years ago | (#19741561)

A few comments from this Massachusetts resident...

First off, this wasn't Romney's idea at all - the entire thing was proposed and implemented by the (extremely Democratic) state legislature. The MittFlopper had zero to do with it - absolutely nothing - he simply made sure to grab credit at the time (now he's distancing himself).

Personally, I think our country is jaw-droppingly stupid to not implement single-payer health care (aka Medicare for Everyone, aka What Almost All Other Industrialized Countries Do). That being said, the Massachusetts initiative has produced a number of very affordable plans, so I do think it's better than nothing.

Re:Romney Just Took The Credit (1)

Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) | about 7 years ago | (#19741685)

Well the real truth is, that no republican pre bush 2nd term, and pre Michael Moore's Sicko, would dare stand up and say they are for what republicans term as "socialized medicine"

How to fix the US healthcare system (2, Interesting)

jonwil (467024) | about 7 years ago | (#19741573)

Here are my ideas based on what I know about it (I don't live there but I have watched enough US hospital shows on TV to know a little about it :)
1.Completely ban health insurance companies from specifying which treatment options a patient must take if they are to be covered (e.g. "you must use our preferred hospital" or "we wont cover you for that really expensive test even though the doctor says you should have it") or from charging differently based on what options are picked. This change doesn't mean they have to provide coverage for stuff like baldness cures (ala that one Simpsons episode) or whatever other non-life-threatening treatments they don't currently cover

2.Do whatever is necessary to increase choice of provider. If there are more options for people to pick from then we will see insurance companies competing for business (here in Australia, health funds spend big money trying to convince you to switch to their policy)

Those 2 provisions would be a good start in fixing the system. Feedback from those who know more about the system would be nice :)

Re:How to fix the US healthcare system (1)

gunny01 (1022579) | about 7 years ago | (#19741771)

Exactly. The Aussie health system has the best of both worlds: Government Medicare will cover you for just about anything: but if you want private hospital, acupuncture, choice of doctor etc, you can pay for any of a few insurers. This lets you pay for the extras if you want them, but no Australian will be left in crippling debt after a major op.

Medical services aren't a commodity: it's not like buying a car or an iPod. If you get cancer, you will pay anything to stay alive. It's unfair for insurance companies to rape people at their most vulnerable.

America is a great country, but the ridiculous system of healthcare is one of the few reasons that would stop me living there.

Affordable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19741621)

Not so far unless you qualify for subsidies. Anyway, as far as where they think the savings are going to come from, I haven't heard anything. The math doesn't work out. Have you even heard the term "preventive care" even mentioned once with this. It's just a scheme to force more people to subsidise the system. In a lot of cases, people currently opt out because they're healthy and not having insurance is cheaper. That's what I did for a while. Saved 5 or 6k a year that way. Luckily I have an employer plan or I'd be throwing away that money now.

um.. (1)

sqldr (838964) | about 7 years ago | (#19741767)

What's this got to do with "news for nerds"?
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