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Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Darn! We Criticize Romney Again...

Darn! We Criticize Romney Again...

April 26, 2006

Just when we were so proud of ourselves for agreeing with Mitt (see Monday's post on guaranteed issue), here we go again!

Read and weep in today's Kaiser Daily Briefing:

Romney in a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday discussed the new law and said critics likely will support the plan once they have studied it more carefully. Romney said, "They key factor that some of my libertarian friends forget is that today, everybody who doesn't have insurance is getting free coverage from government. And the question is, do we want people to pay what they can afford, or do we want people to be able to ride free on everybody else. And when that's recognized as the choice, most conservatives come my way." Romney added, "Most impressions at this point are inaccurate or partially baked."

Can we get this straight, please? "Everyone who doesn't have insurance" is NOT getting free coverage from government. In Massachusetts, persons without health insurance are eligible for free hospital and health centers services only up to 200% of the poverty level (=$19,600 for an individual); folks between 200 and 400% of poverty are eligible for partial free care, after paying a large deductible. (And that's probably the best deal for the uninsured in any of the 50 states.)

Folks without insurance over 400% of poverty (=$39,000 for an individual) become targets for collection agencies. They become part of the large army of Americans suffering under the crushing weight of medical debt, involving (depending on which survey you believe) between 18% and 50% of US personal bankruptcies. And that doesn't even touch the huge numbers of folks with health insurance who are struggling with medical debt because of outrageous deductibles, co-pays, and other cost sharing.

Will someone from the media please, please take Mitt to task for this outrageous distortion?