Insure this!

By MIKE MILIARD  |  October 31, 2007

“We’ve seen tremendous response” since the law has gone into effect, says Debbie Gordon, senior marketing director at Network Health, one of the insurance programs participating in Commonwealth Care. “Network Health has over 50,000 Commonwealth Care members [enrolled] in just a year of the program. That’s about 40 percent of the market.”

Still, she recognizes that “insurance is not a fun thing,” especially for people who are “young and healthy, who don’t believe they were likely to become ill or need services.”

All the same, says Commonwealth Connector spokesman Dick Powers, no matter what one’s age, “we’re all one accident or one diagnosis away from tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. We don’t know when that’s going to happen, but, at some point in our lives, it will. Hopefully later rather than sooner, but the fact is that unforeseen possibility is there. So that’s a reason for purchasing.”

He adds: “Doing so to avoid the tax penalty may not be the best reason, but I think it’s also a very good reason.”

Suspicious minds
Munching a ham sandwich in Winthrop Square, Logan, 30, a bike courier wearing mirrored shades atop a battered Sox cap, doesn’t think so. “Honestly, I don’t care,” he says. “I mean, more penalties on my taxes is just . . . more penalties on my taxes.”

Actually, when I mention the mandatory-insurance law to him, Logan confesses that it’s “the first I’ve heard of any of that.” And considering that he’s “been hit [by cars] a bunch,” he says insurance might not be a bad thing to look into — even if the fact that it’s now mandatory won’t be forcing his hand any time soon. Not anything that’s pressing on your mind? “Nope.” Just gonna get to it when you get to it? “Yep.”

A few blocks away, Harrison, 20, Caitlin, 21, and Eric, 20 — two bike messengers and their unemployed friend — are sitting cross-legged and smoking cigarettes. Strictly in the interest of journalistic inquiry, I ask them for ballpark figures on how much they make. “I have no guarantees, so what I take home is fairly up in the air,” says Harrison. Eric, who’s unemployed, says, “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.” Caitlin takes home “about $340 a week. So, close to $1500 a month. But still far below the necessary amount to be able to pay for health insurance.”

“It’s not like a big deal to me right now,” says Harrison. “I can’t really afford anything.”

Caitlin explains to her friends, neither of whom have heard of the Commonwealth Care plan, that a program does exist that’s subsidized for people like them. But her problem, she says, is “that it’s inaccessible. I had a guy call me, and I’ve, like, tried to call him back six or seven times with no response. The paperwork isn’t easily readable or guidable. They say they have a different mix of all the things you can get, but you don’t. And their gynecological offerings are really, really weak. Signing up for health insurance, like, if they made it a little bit easier, I would be happy to do. But I work 50- or 60-hour weeks, so I can’t afford to go home and fill out six packets of paperwork and wait six months to find out if I can go to the dentist.”

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