Massachusetts Miracle

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$1.8 million more for health reform marketing firm

Mark Hollmer, Boston Business Journal, January 8, 2008 The state is on
the verge of paying New York-based public relations firm Weber
Shandwick more than $1.8 million for a second contract to help educate
the public about health insurance reform. That's on top of a $4 million
contract approved last year for the firm to develop a marketing plan to
educate the public about its obligations under the new law. Among the
most important - nearly every adult in Massachusetts is now required to
obtain some sort of health insurance and faces fines without coverage.
... MA

No immediate Medicaid cuts

Alice Dembner, Boston Globe, January 7, 2008

New federal rules restricting eligibility for the Medicaid health
insurance program will not affect Massachusetts immediately, but could
make it harder in coming years for the state to assist children and
families with moderate incomes who are covered as part of
Massachusetts' health insurance initiative, state officials said Friday.

Draft mandate penalties for 2008 are out

Community Partners, January 3, 2008 The penalty for people who did not
have health insurance last year will be the loss of their 2007 state
income tax personal exemption (worth $219). In 2008, however, the cost
of being uninsured will range from $0 for people whose health insurance
options are deemed unaffordable, up to $912 dollars a year for
individuals over 300% percent of the federal poverty level. The
penalties will accrue each month an individual does not have health
insurance in 2008 and will be due as part of the tax filing process for
the year. ... MA

Massachusetts health insurance penalties to spike in '08

Boston Business Journal, December 31, 2007 The Massachusetts Department
of Revenue said Monday the tax penalties for not having health
insurance in 2008 will more than triple for many people in the state.
Under the law now, individuals who have not obtained insurance by the
end of the year lose the state's $219 individual tax exemption. But in
2008, individuals up to the age of 26 with incomes too high to qualify
for subsidized health insurance will face a penalty of $672 for an
entire year without coverage. People with similar incomes age 27 and
over will face a potential annual penalty of $912. ... Massachusetts

Bracing for the bill

Financial pressures and a host of unknowns weigh on the state's
historic health care law. Mark Hollmer, Boston Business Journal,
December 28, 2007 The state's historic new law that mandates nearly
every Massachusetts resident sign up for health insurance faces a host
of cost-related pressures in 2008 that could leave the effort in
critical condition. While many see the initiative as a success because
as many as 300,000 people signed up for insurance in just the first
year of its implementation, the watershed law also mandates individual
coverage without methods to curb escalating health care costs ... MA

Despite concerns, reform gets generally high marks

Boston Business Journal, December 28, 2007

Does the new health care mandate make the grade? We asked a few people how they would rate the reform effort.

Marylou Buyse
President, Massachusetts Association of Health Plans
Grade: A

In representing health insurers, Buyse is among the major players who
helped shape the legislation and is representing insurers in trying to
gain permission to create more lower-cost health insurance plans
without the mandates currently required. In her own words: "The law's
done a great job to reduce the number of uninsured. But addressing the
rising cost of health care needs to be the next focus to be able to
make this a sustainable success. Affordability is the big risk."

Avoiding the insurance penalty

Alice Dembner, Boston Globe, December 17, 2007 Forty-six people have
already applied for waivers of the $219 penalty that the state will
impose on adults who don't have insurance as of December 31, officials
said last week. Nineteen were approved, and the rest were denied
because they were eligible for state-subsidized insurance or didn't
provide documentation that insurance was unaffordable for them. One is
appealing the decision. ... MA

Immigrants and health care reform

Community Partners, December 17, 2007 Changes in regulations governing
the Health Safety Net and publicly funded health insurance programs
have particular importance for immigrants. In November 2007, Carly
Burton of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition
discussed the impact of health care reform on immigrants' benefit
options with participants of Health Access Network meetings in Boston
and Amherst. ... MA

I Am Not a Health Reform

David U. Himmelstein, MD & Steffie Woolhandler, MD, New York Times,
December 15, 2007 Cambridge - In 1971, President Nixon sought to
forestall single-payer national health insurance by proposing an
alternative. He wanted to combine a mandate, which would require that
employers cover their workers, with a Medicaid-like program for poor
families, which all Americans would be able to join by paying
sliding-scale premiums based on their income. Nixon’s plan, though
never passed, refuses to stay dead. ... I

Massachusetts panel approves changes to subsidized residents health plan

Alice Dembner, Boston Globe, December 14, 2007 Striving to hold down
costs to taxpayers, a state panel yesterday approved a range of changes
for next year for the rapidly growing subsidized health insurance
program. The changes will probably cut payments to doctors and
hospitals, reduce choices for patients, and possibly increase how much
patients have to pay. The program is the centerpiece of the state's
landmark effort to insure nearly every resident, and there is
widespread concern about long-term funding of the initiative because of
growing healthcare costs. ... Massachusetts

Lessons for the nation (sic)

Celia Wcislo, Assistant Division Director, 1199SEIU United Healthcare
Workers East, Commonhealth, December 10, 2007 Last week, the Patrick
administration and the Connector Board shared the news that 300,000
residents now have health insurance, and these numbers are still
climbing week by week. And as we conclude the first full year of our
efforts to provide health insurance coverage to nearly all
Massachusetts residents, this administration, members of the business
community, healthcare advocates, and providers remain committed to our
approach of shared responsibility. ... MA

Taking healthcare's pulse

Boston Globe Editorial, December 10, 2007 The people who are running
the state's health insurance expansion announced good news last week:
Nearly 300,000 customers have enrolled in programs designed to cover
most of those in Massachusetts who are without this essential
protection. And there was more good news as well in the decision by
these same officials to urge that insurance companies keep their rate
increases to 5 percent next year. The board of the Commonwealth Health
Insurance Connector Authority is worried ... MA

Business burden continues to grow

Boston Herald Editorial, December 10, 2007 Thinking about starting a
business in Massachusetts? You might want to think twice, as the cries
grow louder by the day to saddle the business sector with a greater
share of the cost of running state government. We begin with the oddly
good news that businesses will pay an estimated $175 million more each
year to provide health insurance to their workers, as a result of the
state’s landmark health care reform law. That’s not a criticism - it’s
merely a fact. Figures released last week indicate that 300,000 Bay
State residents have newly-acquired insurance under the reform plan ... MA

Blue Cross briefed state on payout for ex-chief

Top lobbyist was sent before $16.4m package disclosed. Jeffrey Krasner,
Boston Globe, December 7, 2007 The day that it planned to disclose it
paid chairman William C. Van Faasen $16.4 million in retirement
benefits, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts dispatched its top
lobbyist to Beacon Hill to brief elected officials on the payment and
put it in "context." Peter G. Meade, Blue Cross executive vice
president, visited or called the offices of Governor Deval Patrick,
Attorney General Martha Coakley, Senate President Therese Murray,
Senator Richard Moore, and others on November 15 ... Blue

Bay State health care law making waves across the country

Associated Press, December 7, 2007

As Massachusetts’ landmark health care law nears another crucial
deadline, its ripple effects continue to spread across the state and
country.

This week those charged with overseeing the law toasted what they said
has been its single most dramatic success: the addition of about
300,000 Massachusetts residents to the ranks of the insured.

They also said the law’s success in Massachusetts - with its goal on
near-universal coverage - should offer inspiration to other states.

"Massachusetts is proving that health care reform can work on a state level," Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray said.

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