POLICY: Massachusetts Update By Eric Novack

I must admit when I am wrong. My repeated claims that the Massachusetts Health Plan would
be on life support—with a likely ‘pulling of the plug’—by early 2008 have been
proven wrong.It has happened already.


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  1. Like many poor slobs (i.e. working class citizens), I can’t what for this fascist scheme to fail. The policies offered are not affordable for the majority of us who theoretically have to buy them, they do not really make seeking medical care more available, and they have no hope of lowering or containing costs. All this law has accomplished so far is the terrorizing of the middle class, exacerbation of brain drain, and the guaranty that we will have a new governor and legislature in the next election cycle. Any politician who signed on to this misbegotten law should be very afraid…

  2. The whole Connector idea doesn’t address the problem, just the symptom. HealthCare costs are the problem. Not health Insurance. Premiums pay for the high cost of care. Maybe creating a connector to try and get Doctors, Hospitals, etc. to keep fees down would be a step in the right direction. I am so tired of hearing doctors complain about how little they are paid, meanwhile, the Forbes list that just came out still has doctors as the highest wage owners in the contry. You can’t continue to put out doctors on a pedistal and pay them like kings and cry about how expensive care is. Doctors in other countries get paid like teachers here. The Connector is just a waste of time….

  3. Eric:
    The source for your pronouncement of “failure” is one Boston Globe article. Before you pronounce “failure”, do you talk with anyone on the ground in Massachusetts to check what’s going on in real life context, or do you rely solely on partial journalistic accounts? I suspect it’s the latter.
    I do note your own admission you’re been predicting the law’s “failure” since its signing one year ago. [“I must admit when I am wrong. My repeated claims that the Massachusetts Health Plan would be on life support—with a likely ‘pulling of the plug’—by early 2008 have been proven wrong.It has happened already.”] I’d say that gives you some stake in failure. By the way, we’ve never predicted success, only our best efforts to make it work and expand coverage to as many folks as possible.
    Your specific questions:
    1. Trav’s new role as a lobbyist. Your point is what? He’s cashing in to be a general lobbyist, not for the hospital group that made him an offer. Not the first legislator to do this, and hardly the last. So what?
    2. “buy more insurance.” Yup, when one accepts the premise of an individual mandate, one necessarily accepts the requirement to define a minimum level of insurance to comply with the requirement. Without that, mini-med plans such as Starbridge would qualify. There is some significant number of plans which differ with the new standard. Some differ by a lot (ie, Starbridge plans) and some differ by not very much. It’s because of this that the Connector is phasing in this requirement 18 months longer than originally anticipated. This is the decision you assert suggests that the plan is “falling apart.” Why? Because we’re taking more time than originally anticipated to make sure we get it as right as possible? Seems to me like a smart and responsible move when attempting to implement a policy unprecedented in the US.
    3. $200 per month. Admit? Nope. You tell us, concretely, who else besides Mitt Romney ever publicly stated that $200 plans were going to happen. We didn’t. The insurers didn’t. The House and Senate leaders did not. Only the Romney Administration. Unlike you, Eric, I was there on the ground from start to finish. So no admission Eric because, once again, your so-called facts are wrong.
    4. You don’t wish for failure? OK, Eric. Here’s a hard, hard challenge for you. Say something, just one thing, just one, nice about the MA health reform law. Like maybe it’s not such a bad thing that about 110,000 lower income persons have affordable and security coverage today who didn’t have it one year ago.
    Just one nice thing, Eric, then maybe I’ll take your name off the prayer group list.

  4. John- you would be mischaracterizing my comments over the months about the plan to say I ‘pray’ for failure. I am simply reporting facts. Rather, I would say that many in Massachusetts and around the coountry get up and ‘pray’ for success of the program. I maintain that praying for it to work will not make it work.
    Perhaps you could comment on former Senate President Travaglini’s new possible role as a lobbyist? Perhaps you could comment on the rules which would require hundred of thousands of Mass residents to buy more insurance than they already have to be ‘compliant’ with the rules of the connector? Perhaps you could admit it was not just the Romney administration touting $200 per month premiums?
    Again, you are wrong to say I wish for failure– quite the contrary– but I will not make my wishing prevent me from discussing the truth about the, at best, troubled implementation.

  5. To suggest the plan is “on life support” or has failed is not correct. Since the law was signed less than one year ago, more than 100,000 previously uninsured persons now have secure and affordable coverage. Many more will be enrolled over the next year. New coverage options will soon be available. They will not be as affordable as Romney bragged, though we never believed him anyway. These choices will offer more varied and affordable options than now available in the MA market — some with higher cost sharing and some without.
    We are engaged in a difficult and unprecedented process to improve our coverage system. If it were easy, it would have been done long ago. We may fail. And we may succeed. We know there are folks across the country who get up every day and say a prayer that our reform will fail. For those watching our experiment with a modicum of goodwill, we humbly suggest, give us a chance, and please don’t join the easy and comfortable cynicism party which is always such an easy hangout.
    John McDonough
    Health Care For All, Boston

  6. Agree with you on problems including people being told they’re underinsured (see http://www.healthbusinessblog.com/?p=1163 and http://www.healthbusinessblog.com/?p=1179). Romney’s always been slimy on this topic (http://www.healthbusinessblog.com/?p=1090) including when he vetoed the employer penalty. Don’t worry, he’ll be quick to take credit later on if it works out. (Another explanation for Romney’s silence is that the MA plan isn’t sensible on a national basis.)
    The $200/month plans Romney bragged about in October were never real, while the $380 figure that was initially reported as the average of initial bids wasn’t a real number either, as it included several carriers with very high estimates who had no intention of playing in the market.
    For the mandate to come into force the plans have to be affordable, and there’s substantial pressure here to make that happen. Sure the board (http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=hicgeneric4landing&L=1&L0=Home&f=Home_more&sid=Qhic)includes “bureaucrats,” but I don’t think you can dismiss people like Rick Lord and Dolores Mitchell so sweepingly.
    One of the interesting things about the plan is that it was enacted with broad support, including from the business community. The tensions it makes evident between cost and access are healthy for the debate, which must be engaged in.
    It’s still not a sure thing that universal coverage will be achieved in MA, but to claim that the plan has failed already or is “on life support” is inaccurate. This story is going to be worth following for quite a while before the ending becomes clear.

  7. David- not excited, realistic. That so many people (conservative and liberal- remember the ‘connector’ idea is, at least in part, a heritage foundation creation) WANT it to work, will not make it so.
    Hundreds of thousands of people with insurance are now told that their insurance is no good… you must buy more.
    Average cost is still 50% HIGHER than planned.
    The Mass senate president during the passage of the law (Travaglini) has just formed a lobbying company and has already been offered 300,00 to lobby for community hospitals.
    Advocates believe the business madate is too high. Advocates believe the individual mandate is too high.
    And the projected costs are nearly twice what had been proposed.
    And a bunch of unelected bureaucrats sit around for a couple of hours and get to decide what constitutes adequate coverage for everyone.
    David- there will never be universal coverage in place for people to want to preserve.
    Another piece of evidence– Governor Romney is not talking healthcare- his healthcare plan- on the stump with any vigor at all.

  8. Not sure why you’re so excited to see the MA reform fail. The delay doesn’t have to do with the feasibility of the plan, just with how quickly it can be implemented.
    It makes sense to go for universal insurance coverage in MA, considering we’ve got a low rate of uninsured to begin with and already have funds allocated for uncompensated care. The plan’s far from perfect, but it’s not a pipe dream.
    Absolutely there’s a need to bring down the cost side of the equation. There will be broad-based support to do so once there’s universal coverage in place and people want to preserve it.
    Looked back at your “repeated claims” and noticed you include a link to that foolish WSJ op-ed by Sally Pipes. Are you a Richard Ralston fan, too?

  9. You could be right Eric. I’m not from Massachussets and don’t pretend to read between the lines when something like this happens but the article points out that this is a delay, not a termination of the program or an amendment to the law. I know that it’s often the case when an article like this comes out it merely protends the eventual demise of the program so that may be what you are hinting at…or maybe I’m just a lefty optimist!

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