MA: Health Care Bill Advances

As Nathan noted yesterday, the Massachusetts Legislature is moving forward with one of the more expansive health care reform packages in the country. The legislature has now adopted the bill, which awaits Governor Romney's signature. While extending coverage to more low-income residents is admirable, a core problem with the Massachusetss law is that it puts too much of the burden on families and too little responsibility on large, wealthy employers refusing to provide health care for their employees. As a a PLAN release explains:
"Extending health care coverage to 500,000 uninsured residents and increasing the subsidies for lower-income families is a wonderful advance in policy," said Steve Doherty, PLAN's Co-Chair. "But we believe that, as currently structured, the individual mandate to purchase health insurance is an unfair burden on struggling working and middle class families. Individuals should not be facing tax penalties of up to $1000 to enforce those mandates, even as irresponsible businesses that fail to provide health insurance are required to pay only $295 per employee."... While the state House initially proposed that businesses not currently providing health insurance would pay a fee equivalent to 5-7% of their payrolls for the program, that amount was reduced to just $295 per employee during negotiations with the state Senate.
Universal coverage is the goal, but we need more than an individual mandate to achieve it. We need help for working families and a requirement that employers shoulder their responsibility to provide health care for their employees.