Massachusetts Miracle

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Cost control and health care reform

Waltham Daily News Tribune Editorial, February 10, 2008

The cost of health care continues its inexorable rise, bringing with it
a host of problems: more people uninsured or underinsured, more
spending diverted from other purposes, employers' profit margins
shrunk, state and municipal budgets stressed. Presidential candidates
from both parties have looked to Massachusetts' health reform law for
answers, but they won't find effective cost controls here.

A panel created by that law presented a report this week that should
come as no surprise. Health care spending in Massachusetts rose
steadily at 5 percent a year from 1991 to 2000, and even more quickly -
7.4 percent per year - from 2000 to 2004.

The health law is working (sic)

Boston Globe Editorial, February 10, 2008 Don't be fooled by the
national press coverage suggesting the Massachusetts health plan is in
trouble. The plan is suffering from a bit too much success, but the
state has the resources to pay for it this year and next. Enrollment in
Commonwealth Care, the subsidized insurance offering, is higher than
anticipated, but Governor Patrick and the Legislature are ready to pay
the extra costs this year. In the fiscal year that begins this July,
the governor has budgeted $869 million for Commonwealth Care, but over
half that increase will be defrayed by the federal government. ... MA

Growing Pains of Universal Coverage (sic)

New York Times Editorial, February 9, 2008 It has not been a good few
weeks for state efforts to provide universal health insurance. A
pioneering program in Massachusetts to cover hundreds of thousands of
uninsured has cost a lot more in its opening phases than originally
projected, raising fears about its sustainability. An even more
ambitious proposal to cover millions of uninsured in California
collapsed in the State Senate over fears that it would prove
unaffordable. Neither setback means that states should stop trying to
cover the uninsured - especially since the federal government is AWOL.
... Growing

NY Times Offers an Opinion on MA Health Reform

John McDonough, PhD, Health Care For All - Massachusetts, February 9,
2008 New York Times editorializes today on MA and CA health reform
efforts: The financial problems are mostly because of underestimating
the number of uninsured and the rate at which they would sign up for
subsidized coverage. As a result, the state, which had originally
expected to spend $472 million on subsidized insurance this fiscal
year, now expects to spend about $150 million more than that. It
anticipates spending almost $870 million next year. ... NY

Money woes confront state health program

Clarence Fanto, Berkshire Eagle, February 8, 2008

Pittsfield - A pack of wolves is lurking outside the door, and no
amount of dancing can resolve the threat to this state's health care
reform - a first-in-the-nation, revolutionary program that is under
close scrutiny as Democratic presidential candidates attempt to figure
out solutions to our broken medical insurance system.

Penalties for some uninsured start soon

Community Partners, February 8, 2008 Many people, for whom insurance is
considered affordable by the state, do not understand that they have to
get health insurance soon in order to avoid next year’s tax penalty.
For some, charges may begin accumulating as early as March. Penalties
continue to accrue each month a person remains uninsured. Based on
income level and age, total penalties could be more than $900.
Community Partners has created a one-page flyer designed to help the
uninsured make a decision about insurance as quickly as possible. ... MA

DiMasi, Murray mull increase in cigarette tax

Funds would help cover healthcare costs. Alice Dembner, Boston Globe,
February 6, 2008 The state's top two legislative leaders, faced with
the prospect of soaring costs for the healthcare initiative, are
considering raising the cigarette tax as one of several funding and
cost-cutting strategies. Both House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi and
Senate President Therese Murray said a tax increase would be discussed
as they look for ways to ensure that the universal health insurance
initiative succeeds. Healthcare advocates have proposed a $1 per pack
tax increase that would raise an estimated $152 million a year ... MA

Healthcare Reform II

Steve Bailey, Boston Globe, February 6, 2008 In the hard-fought
campaign between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the major domestic
policy difference separating the two is healthcare. In the shorthand of
a campaign, the argument comes down to mandate or no mandate. Should
every American be required to have insurance? Clinton says yes; Obama
says no. While America continues to debate, Massachusetts is the one
state that has committed itself on a bold path to universal health
insurance. It is no exaggeration to say the nation is watching. Here
the issue is not mandates or not ... No, the question in
Massachusetts comes down to this: Have we promised more than we can
deliver? ... MA

The growing workforce crisis in MA health care

Michael V. Sack, President & CEO, Hallmark Health, CommonHealth,
February 5, 2008 Take a look back at recent posts to this blog and you
will see one recurring theme: Health Reform has been a tremendous
success so far, but the rise in health care costs continues to worry
everyone. The cost associated with the Reform effort has a growing
price tag. Every single blog contributor, who has offered such a
thought about rising cost, is right on. Many of the regulars in this
space are starting to offer new and innovative proposals to get at the
issue. Last week, Blue Cross offered a new, voluntary payment structure
that hospitals and other providers should examine. ... The

Testimony on Enforcement of Individual Mandate

RE: 830 CMR 111M.2.1 Health Insurance Individual Mandate; Personal Income Tax Return

I am a longtime citizen of this Commonwealth and a nurse who has come
to this public hearing to say in the most vehement and unequivocal
manner to each of you on this joint convening panel that the proposed
regulations to implement the “Individual Mandate” must not move forward
to final acceptance nor to implementation. This regulation will result
in the financial, and, quite likely, the physical harm of many
uninsured and modest income residents in our state.

Subsidized care plan's cost to double

Enrollment is outstripping state's estimate. Alice Dembner, Boston
Globe, February 3, 2008 The subsidized insurance program at the heart
of the state's healthcare initiative is expected to roughly double in
size and expense over the next three years - an unexpected level of
growth that could cost state taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars
or force the state to scale back its ambitions. State projections
obtained by the Globe show the program reaching 342,000 people and
$1.35 billion in annual expenses by June 2011. ... MA

Misinformed on Massachusetts

Paul Krugman, New York Times, February 2, 2008 While we’re talking
about health care reform: I’ve been getting a fair bit of mail from
people who have heard that things are going very badly in
Massachusetts. And there have, indeed, been some very downbeat reports
in the media lately. The problem is that they’re all wrong. People are
confusing an increase in costs that was largely (not completely)
anticipated - after all, the plan is supposed to cover more people, and
subsidize their coverage - with a cost overrun. The fact is that the
plan does seem to be making a serious dent in the number of uninsured.
... Misinformed

State says insurers must list executives' pay

Jeffrey Krasner, Boston Globe, February 1, 2008 Consumers will soon be
able to learn how much their insurance companies are paying top
executives. Nonnie S. Burnes, the state's commissioner of insurance, is
now requiring all insurance companies - including those that provide
health, property, and auto insurance - to report how much compensation
the top 10 executives receive at each insurer. The disclosures must be
included in the companies' financial filings for 2007, which are due by
March 1. ... MA

A health law with holes

Robert Kuttner, Boston Globe, January 28, 2008 Jon Kingsdale is a good
man playing a bad hand dealt him by the Massachusetts Legislature and
the Bush administration. Kingsdale heads the Commonwealth Connector,
created in 2006 by then-Governor Mitt Romney and the Legislature, as
part of an effort to cover most of the state's uninsured. Kingsdale
takes justifiable pride in having brought health insurance to more than
300,000 Massachusetts residents. However, as the Globe recently
disclosed, the program's costs are outstripping its projections by $245
million this year, and $400 million next year. ... A

MA: Cost of health initiative up $400m

Number expected to seek coverage exceeds earlier estimate. Alice
Dembner, BostonGlobe, January 24, 2008 Spending on the state's landmark
health insurance initiative would rise by more than $400 million next
year, representing one of the largest increases in the $28.2 billion
state budget the governor proposed yesterday. The biggest driver of the
cost increase is projected growth in the number of people signing up
for state-subsidized insurance, which now far exceeds earlier
estimates. State and federal taxpayers are expected to bear nearly all
of the additional cost. ... MA

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