According to policy experts, it might not be an easy task for other states like Colorado to duplicate the new Massachusetts law the brings nearly universal health coverage to the state. Apparently Mass. already had a “free care pool” in place that they are able to use to subsidize the new health-care-for-all program. In other states, most of which do not have a free care pool, new taxes would have to be levied in order to pay for a universal health care system.
This is a pretty ridiculous argument against universal health care. First, nobody said it would be easy or free. Second, Mass.’ free care pool money comes from surcharges on hospitals and insurance companies, and state tax revenue. So at some point in the past, they increased taxes to create the pool, and it’s still there. Mitt Romney, the governor of Mass who signed the health care bill into law, has said that the progress made in his state could be a model for health care on a national level. The Boston Globe has responded by saying that he “does not tell campaign audiences … that his plan would probably be impossible to replicate in most states without a tax increase because Mass had an uncommon advantage” – referring to the $610 million in their free care pool.
So Massachusetts already had their tax increase in the past, when they set up the free care pool in the first place. But states that haven’t taken that initiative consider it to be an “uncommon advantage” – which makes it sound like Mass had a rich uncle who bequeathed them his estate. No, they got their priorities in order and did what needed to be done to ensure that their residents had access to health care – obviously the free care pool has been helping uninsured Mass residents long before the new universal coverage debate began.
It’s time for Colorado and the whole country to stop wringing their hands and wailing about where to get the money to pay for health care. First, we make it a priority, and genuinely take on board the fact that access to health care should not be dictated by finances, employment, or where a person lives. Then we raise the money. And yes, it will likely mean a tax increase of some sort, whether it be on hospitals, insurers (who can stand to spare a few dollars), or the general public – probably a combination of all three. This is what Mass did when they set up their free care pool, and it’s working in their favor now.
This report of federal employees wasting $146 million on upgraded airline tickets in one year was released last month. I wonder how many other incidents exist where government officials have spent big-time tax dollars casually and without regard for where the money could be better used? Let’s not forget that the war in Iraq, costing billions of dollars every month, seems to be able to go on endlessly without running out of money. Our government finds a way to fund things it considers a priority. So I’m really tired of the money argument when it comes to universal health care.
If Mass has an “uncommon advantage,” it’s because they set themselves up for success by creating the free care pool in the first place. We are not going to be able to just flip a switch and provide health care for everyone without reshuffling finances and probably increasing taxes on citizens or the health care industry or both. Nobody has said that this would be easy. But it needs to be done. There are far too many people falling through the cracks in our current system, which seem to be widening every year. How high will we let the number of uninsureds get before everyone considers this a priority?