Beginning today, with the launching of the insurance marketplaces created under the federal Affordable Care Act, Massachusetts officials begin the process of reconciling the federal law with the Massachusetts insurance marketplaces established seven years ago. There will be glitches and rough edges, which are problems to overcome, not go to pieces over. The presence of the two laws shows the progress that has been made in seven years when it comes to assuring that residents of Massachusetts and America have access to health insurance.
Massachusetts’ health reform law (Romneycare) was in large part the template for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), so there are more similarities than differences, which puts Massachusetts well ahead of most of the states in implementing the ACA. Massachusetts officials say the ACA will provide the state $200 million in higher federal reimbursements during the current fiscal year and $400 million in the next fiscal year. Perhaps most significantly, the arrival of the ACA will require some Massachusetts residents to re-enroll or be shifted to new programs. (See the column on the page opposite by Charles Joffe-Halpern of Ecu-Health Care in North Adams on the specifics of the program as they apply to Berkshire residents).
Beginning next year, a federal financial penalty will kick in for those who have refused to buy health insurance, and while the state already has such a penalty in place, those without insurance will not pay a double penalty, as the smaller penalty will be deducted from the larger. The myth perpetuated by Obamacare foes is that rugged individualists who don’t want health insurance should not be required to get it, but no one is so rugged as to decline health care when needed, and without health insurance everyone else picks up the tab for these hold-outs, raising everyone’s rates. Requiring drivers to get car insurance makes sense and poses no threat to the nation, and the same applies to requiring everyone to get health insurance.
Republican extremists are going to the lengths of forcing a government shutdown or debt ceiling default to prevent the roll-out of Obamacare, which increasingly strident hysterics have compared to socialism, slavery and Nazism. What they are revealing is their own terror that people will like the program. Americans deserve no less than what people in England and Canada and much of the civilized world receive -- a health insurance program that assures coverage without sending them into bankruptcy. What kind of politician and party would try to deny Americans this?
-- The Berkshire Eagle