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Health Freedom Watch
April 2006

Contents:


How Massachusetts's Health Plan Affects Privacy and Liberty
By Sue Blevins

People across the nation are applauding the Massachusetts effort to increase access to health care, improve its quality, and reduce costs by forcing every resident to purchase medical insurance.  It's going to be an interesting and important task to measure objectively how the Massachusetts experiment actually works-or doesn't-to achieve those goals during the coming years. 

But some results we don't need to wait for.  It's crystal clear (upon reading the actual bill text) that the plan invades everyone's privacy by requiring insurers and health-care providers to submit patient data to a centralized clearinghouse (a new council).  And it's clear that forcing Americans to buy a product from a limited number of government-approved insurers limits their freedom of choice.  There is a huge difference between freedom and choice: freedom means one is free to choose from an array of options not artificially limited by the government, while choice may include only an artificially limited number of options.

Also, it's obvious that the Massachusetts plan will interfere with every citizen's right to maintain private contracts with health-care providers.  If providers are forced to submit patients' data to a centralized clearinghouse, there is no way for patients and their providers to maintain truly confidential relationships. 

Perhaps New Hampshire and other surrounding states should make sure their laws uphold the precious ethics of privacy and consent.  Then at least some Massachusetts residents (those with means to do so) would be free to go out of state to maintain confidential doctor-patient relationships.  And after all, New Hampshire's state motto is "Live Free or Die." 

Better yet, all states' policies should encourage citizens to live free and thrive!  Laws that uphold the ethics of privacy and consent can ensure that.

Sue A. Blevins is founder and president of the Institute for Health Freedom in Washington, D.C.

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The Massachusetts Health-Insurance Bill Mandates New Taxes and Privacy Invasions

On Tuesday, April 4, the Massachusetts House and Senate Conference Committee reached a compromise on a first-of-its-kind legislation that requires everyone in the state to have health insurance or pay a fine. Governor Mitt Romney (R) is expected to sign the legislation into law Wednesday morning (April 12, 2006).

The plan includes new taxes on businesses that don't provide insurance, a requirement that everyone purchase health insurance or be penalized and chilling new invasions into personal privacy.

The legislation includes new Medicaid expansions and the "Connector," modeled after the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, a per-person business "assessment" (read: tax) on firms not offering insurance. Most problematic, the bill provides new government authority to extensively track each person's private health insurance and medical data.

"This program is being sold by the governor as a 'free market' proposal," stated JP Wieske, State Affairs Director for the Council for Affordable Health Insurance (CAHI). "But this plan is a roadmap for a single-payer system that will be a disaster for Massachusetts taxpayers and patients." The legislation gives the government broad new invasion-of-privacy rights:

  • Individuals must provide "Health Insurance Responsibility Disclosure" forms-signed under oath-that can be investigated by the insurance commissioner. The bill also includes other extensive data-reporting requirements. Business owners must also sign the disclosure.

  • The "Connector"-a non-state entity-and other information-gathering agencies can request any information on the business and its employees they deem necessary. Employers not providing insurance not only pay a $295 tax [per employee], but once their employees' and dependents' state-paid health care costs exceed $50,000, employers are responsible for between 10 and 100% of the bill....

"After years of debate over health-care reform, is this the best Massachusetts can do!?" asked Dr. Merrill Matthews, Director of CAHI...."It's not a model for reform, but a costly, invasive boondoggle that should be avoided at all costs."...

Source: Council for Affordable Health Insurance (CAHI) press release, April 10, 2006.

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Online Analysis of the Massachusetts Health Plan

The Minnesota-based Citizens' Council on Health Care (CCHC) has produced an easy-to-read overview of the Massachusetts mandatory health-insurance plan.  The chart is available online at:  http://www.cchconline.org/pdfs/Romney_Healthcare_Chart.pdf.

CCHC provides an important summary of the bill's lesser-known features.  For example, the bill shields insurer payment information from public disclosure.  The chart cites specific bill language which reads: "Cost information shall be aggregated for all insurers and the council [the new centralized agency that will collect everyone's health-care utilization data] shall not publicly release the payment rates of any individual insurer which shall not be deemed to be public record."

Twila Brase, president of CCHC, said "The legislation is extremely intrusive.  State agencies will be monitoring insurance status, checking income status, and tracking the medical care of the Massachusetts people."

[Also, here's a copy of the law].

Source: Citizens' Council on Health Care (CCHC) press release, April 10, 2006.

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Health Freedom Watch is published by the Insitute for Health Freedom. Editor: Sue Blevins; Assistant Editor: Deborah Grady. Copyright 2006 Institute for Health Freedom.