And it’s not as if she doesn’t want health insurance. “I got diagnosed with endometriosis, and I was bleeding and had to walk myself to the hospital because I couldn’t afford $500 for an ambulance,” she says. “That sucked! Ha ha! Like, fuck! I’ve been trying to sign up, but I call once a month and I get no response. It’s because they’re tied up because a billion other people are trying to do it. I’m gonna attempt to sign up, but it’s probably not gonna be by the 31st.”
Commonwealth Connector’s Powers admits that, “for folks who’ve never had insurance before, the process can certainly be daunting. But we have tried to make it as simple as possible. We’ve created a very user-friendly Web site. Folks just have to punch in a couple demographic points, and they can see what policies are available to them, what the cost is, and the services that are covered. We also have a toll-free line, 1-877-MA-ENROLL, that people can call up weekdays and clear up any confusion they might have. We think we do a good job of it.”
Powers also allows that many enrollees are signing up for Commonwealth Care “perhaps somewhat reluctantly.” He would not be wrong in that assumption.
“It’s kind of a ridiculous law to put into effect,” says Eric. “To penalize you on your taxes because you can’t afford something?”
Indeed, the suspicion exists in certain quarters that the law was passed as a sop to the all-powerful insurance lobby. “These are big companies that are making money off us no matter what,” says Caitlin. “It’s really inhumane.”
“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking,” says Harrison. “These companies are huge. Seems like a scam. Something about that makes me uncomfortable. It’s required that I have to pay these companies, these corporations? I dunno. Someone’s getting kickbacks.”
Never mind the common-sense argument that it’s simply smart living to get yourself covered. And forget the economic argument that uninsured patients who rely on the emergency room for care are a drain on the whole system. Many young people see sinister motives at work here — especially considering the mandate was powered through by our erstwhile governor at the same time he was gearing up to run for president. It gives him a substantive piece of policy to run on and it siphons money to his wealthy cronies. A win-win!
On the lemmingtrail board, one member penned a little playlet that would’ve made Bertolt Brecht weep with propagandist pride.
Mitt Romney: Hello Health Insurance Lobby!
HIL: Hello Mitt! We aren’t making enough money! Can you help!
Mitt: Sure can! I’m going to pass a law making it mandatory for everyone in the state I’m governing to carry health insurance. There’s an estimated 500,000 people not carrying insurance with you guys right now! Since monthly premiums are estimated to average around $380, that means you guys stand to make close to $200,000,000 more a month, all while we fuck the little guy!
HIL: Great! THANKS!
Mitt: No problem! Do you think you could donate a bundle of money for my presidential campaign?
Word is law?
It’s not just bike messengers who are facing a financial dilemma here. Freelance writers, artists, musicians, bartenders, waitresses, retail workers, or almost anyone else who chooses to make a living on their own — everyone’s in the same boat. Asked what he would tell an impoverished working twentysomething who’s suspicious of the new law, Powers laughs. “I think I was one of those, once.”