Reform in Name Only

by JAYNE LYN STAHL

The Massachusetts legislature, more than three years ago, passed what then governor Mitt Romney called “universal health care,” a bill requiring state residents to carry health insurance if they can afford it and, if not, pay more in state income tax.

Companies with more than ten employees must provide a “fair and reasonable contribution” to the premium of health insurance for employees, or face penalties, with the employer getting to decide what the words “fair” and “reasonable” mean.

Utilizing a market connector concept in which people price shop from a buffet of private insurance companies, the Massachusetts measure is similar to one currently under consideration in the nation’s capital.

As Massachusetts may be seen as the paradigm for the health care overhaul Congress is now contemplating, it might be useful to take a quick look at some of the changes that have occurred in that state since the measure was passed in 2006.

While the foreclosure rate in 2007, nationwide, was nearly 80% higher than it was in 2006, foreclosures just outside of Boston “nearly tripled from January through September compared with the same period” in 2006, according to Boston.com. Hundreds of tenants in foreclosed buildings were evicted, or faced eviction by mortgage companies with the greates concentration of foreclosures in lower income neighborhood. In a state with an historically expensive housing market, area home auctions hit the roof.

When forced, by state law, to buy auto insurance, faced with unwieldy rent, and the escalating cost of food, the mandate to acquire health insurance may be seen as a strong contributing factor to the sharp rise in homelessness in that state.

Granted, Massachusetts is not among the top five states when it comes to foreclosure, and mortgage default, but what was an evolutionary trend nationally produced a dramatic, sudden spike in the New England state.

And, importantly, two years after its legislature approved what a former Republican governor likes to call universal health care, the Boston Globe reported the number of homeless people in Massachusetts had reached an all-time high. The demands on the mortgage payer to pay for make their auto insurance premium, pay off their credit cards, feed and clothe their family was only exacerbated by the additional demand of having to allocate a portion of their salary for mandated health coverage.

What’s more, ironically, a plan that was designed to reduce the number of people turning to hospital emergency rooms instead drove people into homeless shelters, and hotels. When considering that the official unemployment rate in Massachusetts is at 8.9%, below the national average, one can only imagine the havoc a national mandate to carry health insurance will wreak on the rest of the nation.

Reportedly, too, the Romney health care overhaul, in Massachusetts, has increased rather than decreased the overcrowding in hospital emergency rooms.

So, while Massachusetts may now brag that 99% of its residents have some kind of health insurance, it would be prudent for members of Congress, and the president, to take a long, hard look at the state’s housing market, and ask — at what expense?

With an unemployment rate that is expected to grow over in the foreseeable future, this is not the time to demand that Americans help shoulder some of the government’s burden in covering the uninsured by mandating that they carry health insurance. It’s essential to be perfectly clear, now more than ever, that there is a difference between universal health care, and mandated health coverage.

Reform that includes a mandate is reform in name only, and may ultimately prove to accomplish little more than to drive people from hospital emergency rooms into homeless shelters.

JAYNE LYN STAHL is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.

JAYNE LYN STAHL is a widely published poet, essayist, playwright, and screenwriter, member of PEN American Center, and PEN USA.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 29, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Politics of Betrayal: Obama Backstabs Kurds to Appease Turkey
Joshua Frank
The Wheels Fell Off the Bernie Sanders Bandwagon
Conn Hallinan
Ukraine: Close to the Edge
Stephen Lendman
What Happened to Ralkina Jones? Another Jail Cell Death
Rob Wallace
Neoliberal Ebola: the Agroeconomic Origins of the Ebola Outbreak
Dmitry Rodionov
The ‘Ichkerization’ Crime Wave in Ukraine
Joyce Nelson
Scott Walker & Stephen Harper: a New Bromance
Bill Blunden
The Red Herring of Digital Backdoors and Key Escrow Encryption
Thomas Mountain
The Sheepdog Politics of Barack Obama
Farzana Versey
A President and a Yogi: Abdul Kalam’s Symbolism
Norman Pollack
America’s Decline: Internal Structural-Cultural Subversion
Foday Darboe
How Obama Failed Africa
Cesar Chelala
Russia’s Insidious Epidemic
Tom H. Hastings
Defending Democracy
David Macaray
Why Union Contracts are Good for the Country
Virginia Arthur
The High and Dry Sierras
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, the Season Finale, Mekonception in Redhook
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz
July 27, 2015
Susan Babbitt
Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance
Howard Lisnoff
Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma’s Profiteers: You Want Us to Pay What for These Meds?
Joshua Sperber
What is a President? The CEO of Capitalism
John Halle
On Berniebots and Hillary Hacks, Dean Screams, Swiftboating and Smears
Stephen Lendman
Cleveland Police Attack Black Activists
Zoe Konstantopoulou
The Politics of Coercion in Greece
Patrick Cockburn
Only Iraq’s Clerics Can Defeat ISIS
Ralph Nader
Sending a ‘Citizens Summons’ to Members of Congress
Clancy Sigal
Scratch That Itch: Hillary and The Donald
Colin Todhunter
Working Class War Fodder
Gareth Porter
Obama’s Version of Iran Nuke Deal: a Second False Narrative