Health Freedom Watch
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
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
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
- 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
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.