The Massachusetts effort is the latest attempt by government
to make sure people have access to health insurance and better
In many ways, the way health insurance works is similar to car
People pay an insurance company a certain amount each month and
then when they have to go to the doctor or have a medical emergency,
the health insurance company pays most of the bills.
The insurance company makes money off of healthy people who don't
have to go the doctor, but loses money on sick people who need
a lot of care, just as the car insurance company makes money off
of drivers who never have a crash, but loses it on drivers who
get into big accidents.
In fact, many of the Massachusetts plan supporters compare the
new law to the law that requires everyone who owns a car have
Unlike car insurance, however, most people in the United States
get health insurance from their employers.
But since health insurance premiums-- the money that companies
pay for coverage-- have skyrocketed in the last five years, more
and more companies have stopped paying for their employees' insurance.
This has left millions of people without insurance.
To help very low-income people, the federal government created
Each state decides who is eligible for Medicaid and more than
41 million Americans received Medicaid as of 2004.
But Americans who make too much money to qualify for Medicaid
and cannot afford to or choose not to buy their own insurance
are left uninsured. In 2004, a record 46 million Americans were
Many uninsured people don't go to the doctor for checkups because
it is too expensive, so they end up in hospital emergency rooms
when their health problems get severe.
By law, emergency care can not be withheld. The money to pay
for this care comes from increasing the price of health care for
everyone, according to experts.