Massachusetts Health Plan Might Not Work as National Model
The Boston Globe on Friday examined whether the Massachusetts law that requires residents to have health insurance could "serve as a national model." According to the Globe, Massachusetts "has relatively few uninsured residents," with about 10% of the population lacking health insurance, compared with an uninsurance rate of about 18% nationwide.
While at least seven other states are considering expansions of health insurance, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Massachusetts "vaulted into the forefront ... because the [law ] bridged longstanding differences between health care advocates and employers over the issue," the Globe reports. However, the plan also has drawn criticism from both liberals and conservatives, which could be an indication of the "problems other states would have in passing similar legislation."
Robert Moffit, director of the health policy center at the Heritage Foundation, said, "Massachusetts is a very liberal state. The political culture in other states is so different. I don't think you can expect employer mandates to go anywhere in other states." However, he added that some elements of the plan -- including the provision to combine individual and small-group insurance policies under a central agency to offer low-cost insurance options -- might work elsewhere.
According to Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said the state's "political breakthrough" might encourage other states to take action. He said, "There are significant elements of the Massachusetts proposal that are likely to get serious consideration in a number of states. We have got to find ways to cobble together different approaches. That is the only way I think you can make significant headway."
James Mongan, CEO of hospital and physician network Partners HealthCare, said, "I think it's going to be difficult for other states" to implement laws similar to the one in Massachusetts.
Stuart Altman, a health policy professor at Brandeis University, said, "Every once in a while, a political person or event comes up and kicks [universal health care] into the mainstream. The Massachusetts plan could become a catalyst and a galvanizing event at the national level, and a catalyst for other states" (Rowland, Boston Globe, 4/14).
- Scot Lehigh, Boston Globe: Romney "certainly ... owed his legislative partners more respect than he paid them on Wednesday" when he "rejected one of the core principles that [State House Speaker Salvatore] DiMasi [D] brought to the health care bill -- the notion that companies that didn't provide health insurance should make some contribution," Globe columnist Lehigh writes. Although the "effect won't be long lasting" because the "Legislature will override the veto," it "obviously put DiMasi in an odd position on Wednesday," he adds. However, "Romney can legitimately claim a large share of the credit" for the law, as he "proposed many of its important components" (Lehigh, Boston Globe, 4/14).
- Daniel Schorr, Christian Science Monitor: The Massachusetts health care legislation "shines like a nonpartisan good deed in a naughty partisan world," Schorr, a senior news analyst at National Public Radio, writes in a Monitor opinion piece. Schorr writes, "In this era of bitter political animosities, how was it possible to reach this accord?" adding, "For someone as startled as I was by this evidence of political maturity, it was nothing short of a miracle" (Schorr, Christian Science Monitor, 4/14).
- Robert Frank, New York Times: The "primary responsibility for ensuring access to health care, regulating environmental quality and supporting basic scientific research is exercised by national governments" in most nations, but, in the U.S., "these tasks are increasingly managed by state, and even local, governments," Frank, an economist at the Johnson School of Management at Cornell University, writes in a Times opinion piece. According to Frank, Massachusetts recently enacted a health insurance law that will provide coverage to most state residents, and at least 19 other states last year considered legislation to expand health coverage. Frank writes that programs at the state and local levels "create perverse economic incentives" because "borders are completely permeable," adding that, "unless a large number of other states simultaneously enact comprehensive health care legislation of their own, the new Massachusetts program" will "attract uninsured people with chronic conditions" from other states and substantially increase the cost. In addition, Frank writes, "the need to raise income tax rates would induce many of the community's more affluent taxpayers to flee to" other states. "My point is not that states are foolish for having extended their reach," Frank writes, adding, "Again, the federal government has completely dropped the ball" (Frank, New York Times, 4/13).
- David Lazarus, San Francisco Chronicle: The Massachusetts law "comes up short in addressing the core deficiencies of a system that counts 46 million people uninsured nationwide and that squanders hundreds of billions of dollars annually on bureaucratic overhead," Chronicle columnist Lazarus writes. However, "[w]hat Massachusetts has done is commendable for two important reasons: It marks a recognition by political leaders of the need to tackle health care reform, and it represents a refreshingly bipartisan approach to dealing with the problem," he adds (Lazarus, San Francisco Chronicle, 4/14).