SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

February 11, 2014

Tisei: State needs Obamacare waiver

Obamacare’s implementation has dealt Massachusetts’ healthcare system an enormous blow. The “Washington knows best” mentality embedded in the federal law has disrupted hundreds of thousands of local residents who were previously being served by our own carefully crafted, state-based law. The solution to the crisis is simple: Massachusetts needs a waiver from Obamacare’s requirements, and we need it now.

Just the other day, I was speaking to a caseworker who helps people sign up for health insurance and receive care. She told me gut-wrenching stories of two women who stopped seeing their doctors because they lost their previous health insurance coverage as a result of the Obamacare changes. One woman was in the middle of chemo treatments. The other was pregnant.

This is unacceptable in America. It’s unconscionable in Massachusetts, where 98 percent of the commonwealth’s residents had health insurance before Obamacare. Since the federal law has gone into effect, 300,000 people — the equivalent of half the population of Boston — have been forced off their preferred plans. A full 170,000 people are now living with “temporary” coverage. Most disturbing are the approximately 75,000 people stuck in the “twilight zone,” who don’t know for sure whether they even have coverage.

To add insult to injury, Massachusetts once had a fully functioning enrollment website and electronic carrier payment system. We now have a healthcare website rated the worst in the nation, forcing the state to switch to paper applications.

Conventional wisdom was that Massachusetts would have a seamless transition to the federal law, but reality has shown otherwise. Obamacare was a federal takeover of our state system, and the “one-size-fits-all” approach mandated by federal law has required more than 100 changes to our state program. The failed website system alone has cost $180 million.

People are already being hurt by these changes, but things will only get worse if no one acts. Later this year, up to 60 percent of individuals on small business insurance plans will see their premiums skyrocket. In four years, a new tax on “Cadillac” plans will levy a backbreaking 40 percent tax on nearly all teacher, police and firefighter insurance plans. The medical device tax will also suck $411 million out of our local economy every year, hurting job creation here on the North Shore.

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