Health Reform’s real results that matter
By Senator Richard T. Moore
April 27, 2012 ... Don’t believe those editorials in the Wall Street Journal or claims by some politically-biased national politicians that health reform in Massachusetts is a “budget-buster.” In fact, we have it on very good authority that the landmark 2006 Massachusetts Health Reform law, and its 2008 and 2010 enhancements, is within budget and providing lower health insurance costs for many Bay State residents.
The business-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation is certainly not a liberal bleeding-heart, tax-and-spend advocacy group by any standards. This highly-respected research organization recently reported that, “Massachusetts has achieved near universal health care coverage with only modest additional costs to state taxpayers.”
Over the five full fiscal years since the law was implemented, according to the Taxpayers Foundation, the incremental additional state cost per year has been $91 million, an amount, they state, “ that is well within projections made prior to the law's enactment.”
As anticipated when my legislative colleagues and I drafted the law, health reform has been largely funded by shifting spending away from uncompensated care and supplemental payments and towards traditional health insurance coverage for individuals. “Despite the claims of critics, the health reform law has not posed an undue burden on state taxpayers,” said Taxpayers President Michael J. Widmer. “Because the cost increases have been modest, the Commonwealth has been able to pay for the reforms even during this global recession that has placed enormous pressures on the state’s finances,” Widmer adds.
So, while politicians and pundits, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court, debate the fate of “Obamacare,” as the federal health reform legislation is called, the Massachusetts landmark health reform law, sometimes called “Romneycare,” continues saving lives, providing health insurance coverage, and staying within budget.
On April 12th, the sixth anniversary of the passage of Massachusetts Health Reform, the Commonwealth Health Connector, which was itself created by the 2006 Health Reform law, reported that Commonwealth Care procurement results would again be consumer-friendly for the state fiscal year 2013 that begins this July. For the second year in a row, the rates we pay health insurers for coverage are projected to come in 5% below those of the previous year. The rates for all five of the insurers offering products will now be less than they were two years ago. With these savings, the Connector is well-positioned to accommodate over 30,000 new members over the coming months.
Additionally, the Connector has developed a vision, in collaboration with the Patrick/Murray Administration, for providing subsidized health insurance in Massachusetts in 2014. This proposed plan would improve coverage for tens of thousands of Massachusetts residents, capitalizing on opportunities under the federal Affordable Care Act to promote continuity of coverage and care and maximize federal funding.
In addition to the practical impact of containing the rising cost of health insurance, the voters of Massachusetts continue to voice overwhelming support for the Massachusetts Health Reform law. According to a poll conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and the Boston Globe last year, support for the 2006-enacted legislation rose by ten percent over a 2009 poll rising to 63%. Of the respondents in the most recent 2011 poll, 63% favored it, 21% opposed it, 6% said they weren’t sure, and 9% had not heard or read about the law.
Whenever two-thirds of voters increasingly support a policy over several years, that’s a pretty good result. No one is claiming that the law is perfect, but we seem to be on the right track. Our next step is to try to promote bringing health care costs into line with general state productivity while improving quality of care and without harming access to care. That’s what my colleagues and I are currently working to do.
“It has been one of the biggest policy achievements in this state over the last 25 years,” MTF President Michael Widmer has said of the Massachusetts Health Reform Law. We've accomplished quite a bit in the past six years and look forward to improving the lives of even more Massachusetts residents and saving state tax dollars as key aspects of federal reform take hold.
|Massachusetts Health Reform Spending, 2006-2011: An Update on the “Budget Buster” Myth|