Massachusetts is the only state in the Union that requires individuals to purchase health insurance. Enforcing that "individual mandate" requires state officials to define what counts as health insurance. And so goes residents' freedom to choose.
According to yesterday's Boston Globe:
Starting Jan. 1, residents who do not have health insurance that meets minimum standards set by state regulators could face a hefty tax penalty....
In general, to meet the test, a plan must offer coverage for prescription drugs, preventive and primary care, hospitalization, mental health and substance abuse services, and emergency services.
Don't want mental health coverage? Tough. Da gov'ment says you needs to buy it. In a little over a year, the government will add "radiation and chemotherapy; maternity and newborn care; and diagnostic imaging and screening tests" to the list.
Massachusetts residents might think they are competent to choose their own health plan — but their betters on Beacon Hill think differently.
If you don't want to pay higher premiums for those services, Beacon Hill has another way to make you pay. Again, the Globe:
All health insurance companies licensed in Massachusetts will be required to notify customers about whether their plans meet state standards. However, the rules put the onus on individuals to make sure their coverage meets the state's minimum standards, because it will be individuals, and not employers, who are assessed the penalty.
Currently, the state's universal healthcare law requires most residents to have insurance or face a tax penalty of up to $912 per year. But the rules do not mandate what the coverage must include.
Regulators said yesterday that the penalty in 2009 would probably be higher than $912.
That's a direct tax on the right to choose one's health insurance. And it's only gonna grow.