Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Massachusetts - Planting the seeds of revolution?

Guest post by Carol Rainville, N.D.

After the Seachange
Photo by occam via Flickr, used under the Creative Common's license.

Itʼs been several days now and I am still trying to wrap my mind around the fact that conservative Republican Scott Brown won the senate race in Massachusetts. I was hoping for some kind of voting irregularities to surface but, alas, such is not the case.

A recent Washington Post poll says health care was the most important issue driving the results. I didnʼt really need a poll to figure that one out. One candidate vowed to vote for it and the winner vowed to vote against it. The poll also said that the majority of voters support the Massachusetts universal health care plan. In my own little poll, my selfemployed friends have expressed far greater fear, frustration and anger with the state mandate than the friends with employer-provided health care plans.

Since the universal health insurance law went into effect here in 2007, premium costs have skyrocketed. If you donʼt have “credible” health insurance coverage, you will be fined. Since January 2009, credible means, in addition to the basic coverage prescribed by law (catastrophic insurance alone isnʼt enough), you must also pay for prescription drug coverage whether you need it or not. We are seeing double digit annual increases in our premiums. Blue Cross was planning increases of up to 47% for some small businesses for 2010, claiming costs have increased that much in the span of one year!

I had high hopes for health care reform when President Obama took office. The original ideas looked like real reform. It now looks like the Massachusetts plan gone national and I believe that is the message the voters here were sending. They are outraged and they donʼt want more of the same. I share the outrage. As a self employed individual I pay well over $8000 per year just in premiums, plus co-pays and the cost of membership in a chamber of commerce to get that special group rate. I rarely use prescription drugs and the ones I have used were not covered by my insurance. Itʼs not hard to see who the winners are here.

For a lot of reasons, though, Scott Brown was not my candidate of choice. My thinking was that if Congress did pass this legislation, with the same results we have seen here, the national outrage would drive real reform. Senator-elect Brown is an intellectual lightweight and once he casts his vote against the health care bill, his 15 minutes of fame will be over. However, that vote may well be “the shot heard round the world.”

I do believe things happen for a reason. Massachusetts has sent a strong message to Washington because the citizens of this state and this country, however naively, still believe in government of the people, by the people, for the people. There is an incredible opportunity here. President Obama and Congress can grab it and regain the peopleʼs trust or they can let it pass them by. If the latter happens, I sense a revolution sprouting. Cake anyone? (Apparently, Marie Antoinette never really said “Let them eat cake” but the symbolism remains.)

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