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What Every American Should Know about the Massachusetts Mandatory Health Insurance

Armen Hareyan's picture

Health insurance legislation

Republican Governor Mitt Romney is planning to sign into law this week a mandate that citizens of Massachusetts purchase health insurance, join a government-subsidized program, or face a financial penalty.

Romney's health insurance plan is being touted as landmark legislation and other states already are being encouraged to follow suit. But a close examination of the soon-to-become law reveals that it grants enormous power to special-interest groups to collect health care data on all citizens and impose fines on health care providers who fail to share patients' data.

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Following are some of the bill's lesser-known facts that all Americans should know about before endorsing the health insurance plan or expanding it nationwide. The bill:

  • Establishes a "health care quality and cost council" (referred to hereafter as the "Council") whose purported goal is to improve health care quality and contain or reduce costs.

  • Grants the Council authority to promulgate rules and regulations requiring insurers and health care providers to submit data to the Council. It also gives the Council authority to adopt bylaws for itself and its advisory committee, and makes clear that the Council is not subject to control of the Massachusetts executive office of HHS. Thus it is not clear (1) who has legal ownership of health data collected by the Council; (2) whether health data submitted to the Council will be personally identifiable or de- identified; and (3) with whom the data may be shared.

  • Imposes financial penalties on insurers and health care providers who fail to submit "required data" to the Council on a timely basis (a penalty of $1,000 for each week of delay; a maximum penalty of $50,000)