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Mass. insurance law passes check-up

Gov. Mitt Romney signs Massachusetts' new health care reform bill in April 2006, which made Massachusetts the first state in the country to require that all residents have health insurance.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: It's been just over a year since the mandatory health insurance program in Massachusetts went into effect. It got its first major check-up today and Marketplace's Sarah Gardner has the results.


Sarah Gardner: Health care reformers see Massachusetts as a sort of laboratory for universal coverage. No other state has adopted such a comprehensive plan and if it's successful, advocates hope it will embolden Congress to pass something similar.

Today's study by the Urban Institute suggests, so far at least, the Massachusetts plan is working.

Sharon Long led the research.

Sharon Long: Uninsurance is down among working age adults -- reduced by almost half -- access to care has improved and health care is more affordable for individuals in the state.

The Massachusetts law requires residents to buy health insurance or pay a yearly penalty. The state subsidizes those who can't afford coverage.

But the Massachusetts plan isn't entirely the picture of health. The research suggests there may not be enough primary care doctors to service all the newly insured and the program cost at least $150 million more than expected.

Drew Altman is president of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Drew Altman: There's not a lot of cost containment built into the Massachusetts plan.

Altman say controlling costs is now the law's biggest challenge, especially given the weak economy. Some health care advocates are already calling for employers to contribute more towards the program. Not surprisingly, business is resisting that remedy.

Bill Vernon: Really a dangerous move for the future of the economy of the state of Massachusetts.

Bill Vernon is with the National Federation of Independent Business. He says anything that would upset the delicate political balance achieved in the Massachusetts plan is unwise.

I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

About the author

Sarah Gardner is a reporter on the Marketplace sustainability desk covering sustainability news spots and features.
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"Coverage" needs not have the insurance industry involved. The Social security tax for retirement and other social needs is based on moneys earned. A separate tax on hours worked is needed to provide a fund base for an annual health dole based on the average per age and gender. This encourages each individual to keep better care of themselves, and gives them an annual comparison standard. Self management is more effective than insurance or government management. All insurances can be replaced by productive managements of savings account/ retirement account funds.

I am grateful for the recent law requiring health care in Massachusetts, and for the increased access and opportunity the commonwealth has provided. Last summer, shortly after the new law went into effect, I was faced with a gap between when my student health coverage ran out and when my new employee coverage began. The new law meant that I was easily able to sign up for a new health care plan for the 3-month period, and choose the plan that was the best and most affordable for my circumstances. In the past, I would have been unable to get short-term health coverage, and would have had to forgo health insurance for those three months.

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