Insure this!

By MIKE MILIARD  |  October 31, 2007

Which is not chump change, of course, but compared, say, with the $3000 settlements extracted by the RIAA from people caught sharing music files online, it’s a bargain. So it’s not hard to believe that Massachusetts citizens with a libertarian bent might be willing to pay it rather than get the required insurance, just to make a point about governmental intrusion.

But that ain’t all. “Failure to meet the requirement in 2008 will result in a fine for each month [emphasis added] the individual does not have coverage. The fine will equal 50 percent of the least-costly, available insurance premium that meets the standard for creditable coverage.” As the saying goes: it adds up.

One can understand how young adults who don’t have health insurance through work (or through their parents) might be upset about a mandate — signed into law in April 2006 by an enthusiastic Mitt Romney, after being passed 154 to 2 in the House and 37 to 0 in the Senate — that requires them to fork out cash for an insurance plan, lest they be compelled to fork out more cash in punishment.

“[I] know a lot of people who will more or less be financially crippled by this,” wrote one poster on Boston’s lemmingtrail message board (board.lemmingtrail.com) this past spring, “mostly because they are young, make close to minimum wage, and have student-loan debt.”

Wrote another, “it is a fucking CRIME that we don’t have universal health care in this country, and we instead get stuck with these weird laws that try and compensate.”

Several posts later, however, a member spoke up: “I find it very hard to believe that any of the people in this thread complaining about inability to pay have a very good reason. If you can’t afford 100 bucks a month — maybe you need to buy a few less CDs or records.”

Affordable options
In fact, premiums might be even less than that. For people who earn 300 percent or less of the federal poverty level (FPL) — which translates to about $30,000 annually for individuals, and $62,000 for a family of four — there are an array of state-subsidized plans offered through Massachusetts’s Commonwealth Care plan, the low-income arm of the state’s Commonwealth Connector.

Enrollees who earn below 150 percent of the FPL ($15,324 annually) would pay no premium, but would be responsible for minimal co-payments for doctor visits and prescriptions.

Anyone who makes between 150 to 200 percent of the FPL ($15,325–$20,424) would pay $35 a month, along with some minimal co-pays. For people making between 200 and 250 percent of FPL ($20,425–$25,536), the premium rises to $70 or $75 per month (depending on whether the insured lives in or out of the Greater Boston area), and between 250 to 300 percent of FPL ($25,537–$30,636), the premium would be between $105 and $111 per month.

For people who make more than $30,636, the Commonwealth Connector, according to its Web site, offers the Commonwealth Choice plan, an unsubsidized program that nonetheless offers people access to “a variety of high-quality, affordable, private health-insurance plans,” whose premiums and co-pays depend on which of the four levels of coverage one chooses.

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