Government-run health care is back in the news and the news is frightening. Massachusetts residents are required to enroll in their state-run health care plan before the end of this calendar year.
If they fail to do so, the penalty is the loss of their personal income tax exemption this year, worth $219.
If they fail to enroll by the end of next year, they will be fined around $1,000, one-half of the cost of the least expensive health care plan available through the state. The penalty will probably continue to increase as the State of Massachusetts coerces its residents into participating in a health care plan they may not want.
What is the reward for those who do enroll? The cost of the government-mandated health care plan is going up 10 to 12 percent in the first year. So much for controlling the cost of health care.
As the Democrats attempt to convince us that universal health care at lower cost is an achievable goal, the experiment in Massachusetts is failing. Everyone wants something for nothing, and the Democrats are happy to promise it to you, but reality is catching up with them. The reality is that health care costs can only go down when people care about the cost and have an incentive to keep that cost down.
The more shocking part of the news about Massachusetts is the enforcement aspect.
Most liberals agree that "universal" coverage cannot be achieved without a mandate, but what are they willing to do to enforce their mandate? In Massachusetts, there are financial penalties for people who choose not to participate in the government-run plan. The penalties are severe and can increase in the following years. Is this what we want in Wisconsin?
If there is no mandate, there is no government-run "universal" health care. If there is, you have to enforce it. Do we really want the Wisconsin Department of Revenue telling low-income families to choose between their home and a government-run health care plan with no cost ceiling? Or tell young singles that might not want to participate that they have to pay a huge fine?
We often talk about the need to attract young people to Wisconsin while keeping our kids home. We talk about the importance of providing an educated workforce for Wisconsin businesses. Do we really want to threaten young people with fines for not buying a mandated health care plan? Won't it be more attractive for them to go to neighboring states where they can pay lower taxes and choose their own health care plan in the free market?
The answers to these questions are obvious and anyone who tells you that these "something for nothing" plans will attract workers and taxpayers to our state are attempting to sell you something. Hold on to your wallets.
There is a solution to this problem, but it won't be found in the Capitol in Madison. It will be found in the open market. As legislators, we can use legislation to open up the marketplace and make it more competitive. We can make those markets more transparent and easier for consumers to understand. We should be focusing our efforts on this and not on pie in the sky promises we will not be able to deliver.
State Sen. Ted Kanavas (R-Brookfield) represents the 33rd District in the Wisconsin State Senate.