Massachusetts Health Care Law Set To Take Effect
As a July 1 deadline to purchase health care coverage in Massachusetts approaches, a poll released on Wednesday finds that a majority of the state's residents support the law, including the individual mandate, the Boston Globe reports.
For the poll -- conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Harvard School of Public Health and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation -- researchers in late May and early June interviewed 1,003 Massachusetts residents by telephone about the law (Dembner , Boston Globe, 6/27).
According to the poll, two-thirds of residents who are aware of the new law support it, up from 61% in September. People who support the law mainly say it is because they believe "it is the right thing to do." In addition, 57% support the law's individual mandate, compared with 52% in September.
Large majorities see the law as benefiting uninsured, low-income people and young people. About half say small businesses will be hurt by the law, compared with 25% who say they will benefit. Although the new law does not include any tax increases, 66% of residents believe it will result in higher taxes in the future.
In addition, the Christian Science Monitor on Wednesday examined how the Massachusetts law is "entering a make-or-break implementation phase."
According to the Monitor, the law "offers at least two lessons: First, a major health care overhaul is possible, despite all the competing interest groups. Second, a big change doesn't mean a quick fix," as Massachusetts "has already scaled back its early hopes that all residents would be covered."
In addition, the "implementation here comes as pressure mounts on politicians nationwide to restrain rising medical bills and extend health insurance to the roughly 15% of Americans who lack it," the Monitor reports.
Jonathan Gruber, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who helped develop the law, said, "It's coming right down the middle. It's sort of an American approach to universal coverage." Gruber added, "Our goal is (to cover) 85% of the uninsured," or 99% of the total population, in Massachusetts.
Regina Herzlinger of Harvard University raised concerns about the availability of health plans for low-income Massachusetts residents under the law and the lack of information about the effectiveness of the plans. Herzlinger said, "I now know more about that raisin bran than I do about the guy who's going to do (an operation)."
According to the Monitor, "Another criticism is that the financial penalties -- imposed next year on residents who don't buy coverage -- are so small that many people won't buy." However, national surveys have found the "public to be narrowly supportive of a Massachusetts-style requirement on individuals" to obtain health insurance, the Monitor reports (Trumbull, Christian Science Monitor, 6/27).
In related news, Kingsdale on Tuesday said that four health insurers scheduled to offer health plans for low-income state residents under the law have requested additional payments, the Globe reports.
Kingsdale said that Massachusetts seeks to expand a contract with the health insurers -- Network Health, Boston Medical Center HealthNet Plan, Fallon Community Health Plan, and Neighborhood Health Plan -- by six months. In exchange, the companies seek additional reimbursements.
Massachusetts has offered a 4% increase in payments and has agreed to cover costs in the event that they increase significantly, Kingsdale said. He added that two of the health insurers likely will accept the 4% increase in fees and that Massachusetts will seek bids from other companies in the event that the other two do not accept the increase (Dembner , Boston Globe, 6/27).