Massachusetts Miracle

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Higher CommCare co-pays would create a barrier

Community Partners, February 27, 2008 The Connector’s proposed
Commonwealth Care co-pay schedule would likely lead members to opt out
of preventative care, forego appointments for chronic conditions, skip
medications, and/or drop or lose their coverage – and it could put
medical providers in the position of making up the cost to the state.
These were the recurrent concerns of respondents to a statewide survey
conducted by Community Partners. ... Over 90% of respondents expressed concern that the proposed
co-pay changes would be unaffordable for the newly enrolled membership.
... Higher

A fair share for healthcare

Boston Globe Editorial, February 27, 2008 The authority overseeing the
state's new universal healthcare law is about to raise its rates on
people who are living on limited incomes. This insurance is subsidized
by the state, and the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority
wants to make sure that co-pays and monthly premiums are high enough to
discourage people from switching from private insurance. These costs
should not be so high, however, that they are a burden for people with
chronic conditions or discourage them from getting necessary care. ... A

Dirty words in healthcare

Joseph L. Dorsey, MD & Donald M. Berwick, MD, Boston Globe,
February 27, 2008 The closest you can come to heresy in today's
healthcare policy debate is to suggest that managed care can help and
that capitation is the best way to pay for it. No presidential
candidate even whispers the terms. What a shame. Massachusetts faces a
$147-million shortfall this fiscal year in its subsidy for the
universal insurance coverage that it courageously mandated two years
ago. That raises a question: What system of payment will best support
innovations that can make care less expensive and better at the same
time? ... Dirty

How much is too much to pay?

Steve Bailey, Boston Globe, February 27, 2008 You just have to pay it,
Steve," Sam Thier, the likable but combative former chief executive of
Partners HealthCare, the 800-pound gorilla of the Boston hospital
world, used to tell me when I'd ask, as I often did, about the
exploding cost of healthcare. "Of course, you have to pay," says Regina
Herzlinger. "The question is how much?" It is a question that Reggie
Herzlinger has been asking for nearly three decades, and with
increasing bluntness as the price of health insurance continues to rise
at double-digit rates year after year. ... How

Salaries healthy for health insurance watchdogs

Jessica Fargen, Boston Herald, February 26, 2008

A Herald review of the payroll at the state’s Health Connector, the
agency charged with implementing the landmark health insurance law,
shows nearly half the staff pocketing six-figure salaries.

Nineteen of the 43 employees take home more than $100,000 and 10 of
them top Gov. Deval Patrick’s $140,000-a-year salary, according to 2008
salary records for the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector

In 2007, the connector’s high-flying salaries drew criticism from
lawmakers who worried that administrative costs would soak up too much
of the $25 million seed money the Legislature allocated for the
ambitious plan.

Your tax dollars at work

2008 Commonwealth Health Insurance Health Connector Employee Payroll.
Boston Herald, February 26, 2008

Below is the payroll for the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority as of Feb 20,
2008, listing projected salaries and earned income from last year. The
Health Connector is charged with implementing the state's new health
insurance law. Payroll provided to the Herald under the state's Public
Record law. E-mail any inquiries to and check for
updates in the City Desk Wired blog.

2007 Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority Payroll (43)

Massachusetts leads (sic)

Jon Kingsdale, Executive Director, Commonwealth Health Insurance
Connector Authority, Boston, Chicago Tribune, February 26, 2008 Your
February 17 editorial ("The danger in big promises")
states the obvious: Health care costs are high. Very high. But we in
Massachusetts have rejected the national solution of sitting idly on
the sidelines and watching millions of Americans lose their coverage.
Yes, there are more uninsured in Massachusetts than originally thought.
That's all the more reason for us to tackle the problem ... Massachusetts

Hit up relatively untapped source in health reform

David Schreiber, Arlington, Boston Globe, February 25, 2008 Egregious
and upside-down are how I describe the Commonwealth Care premium and
benefit changes that have been proposed to the Commonwealth Health
Insurance Connector Authority ("Health plan rates may rise by 14%,"
Page A1, February 15). Officials justified the premium increase as an
attempt to hold down costs in the face of a possible move by employers
to drop their coverage because Commonwealth Care may offer their
workers a better deal. ... Hit

Why pay for deficient insurance?

Anita Robertson, Blackstone, Boston Globe, February 24, 2008
Massachusetts has not solved the problem of covering the uninsured by
making coverage "affordable." ("Healthcare Reform II,"
February 6.) Working people at lower incomes must pay as much as one of
every three take-home dollars for coverage and copays - and then lack
comprehensive coverage for expensive healthcare emergencies due to
coverage limits. Rather, Massachusetts made a pact with insurers that
focused on propping up their continuing profits with taxpayers'
dollars ... Why

Fraud in the guise of health reform

Joseph T. Gorman, Daily Hampshire Gazette, February 23, 2008

One of the biggest cases of health insurance fraud is going unpunished.
The regulatory authorities are aware of it but in a malign twist of
political opportunism, actually promote it. Meanwhile, the perpetrators
are reaping millions in profits at the expense of powerless
policyholders, who are forced to impoverish themselves by paying high
monthly premiums that purchase only the illusion of coverage, with
deductibles and co-payments that will send you into cardiac arrest.

Shared Responsibility

Nancy Turnbull, CommonHealth, February 21, 2008 The board of the
Connector, on which I serve, is facing some difficult decisions about
enrollee premiums and cost-sharing for the Commonwealth Care (CommCare)
program. State finances are tight, CommCare enrollment is larger than
expected, and health care costs and premiums continue to rise much
faster than overall inflation or wages. All of these factors are
combining to put financial pressure on the CommCare program. Let’s be
clear about the problem: The financial challenges facing CommCare
result from covering more people than projected at this point in the
program’s development. ... Shared

Costs may rise for CommCare members

Community Partners, February 20, 2008 The Connector Board has
recommended raising co-payments for Commonwealth Care Types 2 and 3,
the coverages offered to members with incomes from 101% to 300% FPL.
The Board plans to discuss the issue at their February 28 meeting.
While the Board is concerned about rising costs to the state, advocates
argue that costs to members should not be raised without more data
about how affordable it is for them now. You may express your opinion
on higher co-pays by taking a quick survey. ... Costs

Taxpayers must file new state health insurance form

If health insurance form isn’t filed, $219 penalty could result. David
Riley, GateHouse News Service, February 18, 2008 Quincy - Beverly
Kenney thought she was finished with her income taxes already, two
months before the due date. Then she learned that for the first time,
she has to file a form showing she has health insurance to comply with
the state’s health care reform law. Otherwise, the Ashland retiree
could face a $219 tax penalty. “It’s ridiculous that we even have to do
this,” Kenney said at the Ashland Senior Center. But all Massachusetts
taxpayers older than 18 are expected to fill out the new Schedule HC
form this year and file it with their state returns. ... Taxpayers

Through the cracks of health reform

Dave Brown, Malden, Boston Globe, February 17, 2008 I find it
profoundly disturbing to see Donald Gudaitis of the New England
division of the American Cancer Society calling for a tobacco tax
increase as one of the "long-term solutions to the revenue issue" for
the state's healthcare program ("Estimated cost of the state's health plan raises alarm,"
Letters, February 10). Taxes on smokers are a solution to any "revenue
issue" for only as long as people keep smoking. Funding major
healthcare initiatives in this manner is not only shortsighted, it's

Through the cracks of health reform

Elisa Pearmain, Lincoln, Boston Globe, February 17, 2008 Despite the
praise that our health insurance system is getting around the country,
I am not impressed. As a licensed therapist working mostly with clients
insured by MassHealth, I have seen the following problem repeatedly in
the past year. When clients turn 19, get disability coverage, or lose
their children to the Department of Social Services, for instance, they
receive a letter from MassHealth saying that they are being terminated
and must apply for Commonwealth Care. They are given about one more
week of coverage from the time they get the letter. When they call
Commonwealth Care, they are told that they must wait a month for
coverage to begin. Thus, these vulnerable clients lose psychiatry and

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